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REGIONAL ASSEMBLIES - PR WELCOME, BUT COULD SYSTEM HELP BNP?

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The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the commitment to proportional ...
The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the commitment to proportional

representation in today's regional assemblies white paper, but analysis by

the society suggests that the voting system proposed by the government will

hand seats to the BNP in the North West and potentially other regions.

'We welcome the commitment to PR,' said Ken Ritchie, chief executive of the

Electoral Reform Society. 'There is no point in having regional assemblies

that are not inclusive and do not provide a legitimate voice for all of the

region.

'However, we are surprised at the choice of the Additional Member System

(AMS). It suggests a lack of clear thinking on the part of those who drafted

this white paper and a lack of understanding of the different PR systems.

'The AMS system would allow a party receiving around 3% of the votes to get

a seat. In the light of recent results, the BNP has shown their potential to

win over 10% of votes across wide areas of the North West and so would have

a very strong chance of winning one or more seats.

'With a voting system that so favoured them, the BNP would also be able to

expand their efforts into other regions as new assemblies were created and

would stand a very high chance of gaining seats in these too.

'BNP leader Nick Griffin recently stated that his party would be fielding

candidates in the Scottish parliament elections next May. He said that the

AMS system used there meant his party had a very good chance of gaining

representation.

'In London, the government introduced an artificial 5% threshold to stop the

BNP winning seats. It had no effect on the BNP who scored just 1%, but

stopped the Christian People's Alliance from winning a seat. An artificial

threshold would not stop the BNP in the North West if they continue to poll

above 10%.

'A better system all round would be the Single Transferable Vote (STV). This

system gives voters far more choice and still gives broad proportionality

between the parties.

'Because it works in 3-5 member constituencies, candidates need at least 18%

of the vote to be elected. Although the BNP could score around 10% in large

areas, this would not be enough to be elected on first preferences and they

are highly unlikely to receive transfers from voters for more mainstream

parties.'

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