Advantages of Proportional Representation System 

The Proportional Representation (PR) system offers a better hope that decisions will be taken in the public eye and by a more inclusive
cross-section of society.

Thus, the strongest arguments for PR derive from the way in which the system avoids the anomalous results of plurality/majority systems and is better able to produce a representative legislature.

For example, in the 1996 parliamentary proportional elections in Sierra Leone, in which 750,858 people voted, Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) got 269,888 (35.94%) United National People’s Party (UNPP) 165,219 (22%) People’s Democratic Party (PDP) 114,429 (15.24) All People’s Congress (APC) 42,467 (5.66%) National Unity Party (NUP) 39,285 (5.23%) Democratic Centre Party (DCP) 35,632 (4.75%) Others 79,282 (10.55%).

Seats were distributed as follows:
SLPP – 27
UNPP – 17
PDP – 12
APC – 5
NUP – 4
DCP – 3
Others – 0

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For many new democracies, particularly those which face deep societal divisions, the inclusion of all significant groups in the legislature can be a near-essential condition for democratic consolidation.

Failing to ensure that both minorities and majorities have a stake in developing political systems can have catastrophic consequences, such as seeking power through illegal means.

PR system translates votes cast into seats won and thus avoids some of the more destabilizing and ‘unfair’ results thrown up by plurality/majority electoral systems. ‘Seat bonuses’ for the larger parties are minimized, and small parties can have their voice heard in the legislature.

Reduces wasted votes
When thresholds are low, almost all votes cast in PR elections go towards electing a candidate of choice. This increases the voters’ perception that it is worth making the trip to the polling booth on polling day, as they can be more confident that their vote will make a difference to the election outcome, however small.

Any political party with even a small percentage of the vote can gain representation in the legislature.

This fulfils the principle of inclusion, which can be crucial to stability in divided societies and has benefits for decision-making in established democracies, such as achieving a more balanced representation of minorities in decision-making bodies and providing role models of minorities as elected representatives.

Encourage parties to campaign beyond the districts in which they are strong or where the results are expected to be close. The incentive under PR system is to maximize the overall vote regardless of where those votes might come from.

Every vote, even from areas where a party is electorally weak, goes towards gaining another seat. Restricts the growth of ‘regional fiefdoms’ Because PR system rewards minority parties with a minority of the seats, they are less likely to lead to situations where a single party holds all the seats in a given province or district.

This can be particularly important to minorities in a province which may not have significant regional concentrations or alternative points of access to power.

Makes power-sharing between parties and interest groups more visible

In many new democracies, power-sharing between the numerical majority of the population that holds political power and a small minority that holds economic power is an unavoidable reality.

Where the numerical majority dominates the legislature and a minority sees its interests expressed in the control of the economic sphere, negotiations between different power blocks are less visible, less transparent and less accountable; for example, in Zimbabwe during her first 20 years of independence).

MORE ABOUT: APC | SLPP

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