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Comparing Electoral Systems: First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) vs. Proportional Representation (PR)


  • Following the recent declaration of Lok Sabha election results on June 4, a debate has arisen over India’s electoral system. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) secured 293 seats with a 43.3% vote share, while the opposition bloc INDIA won 234 seats with a 41.6% vote share. Other regional parties and independents, who garnered approximately 15% of the votes, only managed to win 16 seats collectively. This has sparked discussions among experts advocating a shift to a proportional representation system.

First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) System

  • Description: Also called the simple majority voting system, FPTP is an electoral method where the candidate with the most votes in a constituency wins.
  • Usage: This system is prevalent in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and India.
  • Mechanism:
    Single-Member Districts: Each constituency elects one representative.

    Plurality Wins: The candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of achieving an absolute majority.

Pros and Cons:

  • Simplicity: Easy for voters to understand.
  • Strong and Stable Governments: Often results in a clear winner, leading to stable governments.
  • Direct Representation: Ensures geographic areas have dedicated representatives.
  • Accountability: Representatives are accountable to their constituents.


  • Disproportionality: Mismatch between the percentage of votes and seats won.
  • Wasted Votes: Votes for losing candidates will not impact the election outcome.
  • Minority Rule: A candidate can win with a minority of votes if the opposition is fragmented.
  • Geographic Concentration: Parties with concentrated support can win more seats despite fewer votes overall.
  • Gerrymandering: Can incentivize the drawing of boundaries to favor a party.


  • Proportional Representation (PR) System
  • Description: PR aims to allocate seats in the legislature in proportion to the number of votes each party receives, providing a more accurate reflection of voter preferences.


  • Party Lists: Voters cast votes for parties, which allocate seats to candidates based on vote share.
  • Multi-Member Districts: Districts elect multiple representatives for proportional allocation.
  • Thresholds: Minimum percentage of votes required for representation to avoid fragmentation.

Types of PR:

  • List PR: Parties receive seats based on vote share, filled by candidates from the party’s list.
  • Mixed-Member PR: Combines FPTP and PR. Voters cast two votes: one for a candidate, one for a party.
  • Single Transferable Vote (STV): Voters rank candidates in order of preference, with votes transferred according to preferences.

Pros and Cons:

  • Fair Representation: Accurate reflection of the electorate’s preferences.
  • Minority Inclusion: Better representation for smaller parties and minority groups.
  • Reduced Wasted Votes: Most votes contribute to the election outcome.
  • Encourage Voter Turnout: Voters feel their vote has more impact.


  • Coalition Governments: This can lead to unstable governments if coalition partners disagree.
  • Complexity: More complex for voters and authorities.
  • Fragmentation: This can result in a fragmented legislature, complicating the majority consensus.
  • Weaker Constituency Links: Representatives may be less accountable in specific areas.
  • Influence of Party Leadership: Centralizes power within party leadership.

International Practices
Presidential Democracies:

  • Brazil and Argentina: Use party list PR systems.

Parliamentary Democracies:

  • South Africa, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain: Use party list PR systems.


  • The Bundestag fills 50% of its seats through FPTP and the other 50% through PR, with a 5% vote threshold.

New Zealand:

  • The House of Representatives fills 60% of its seats via FPTP and 40% through PR, with a 5% vote threshold.

Future Directions for India
Law Commission’s Recommendation (1999):

  • Suggested introducing the Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system on an experimental basis, with 25% of seats filled through PR.

Upcoming Delimitation Exercise:

  • A post-2026 census delimitation exercise would increase Lok Sabha seats, considering uneven population growth.
  • Proportional seat allocations based solely on population may conflict with federal principles and disenchant certain states.

Potential Solutions:

• Implementing the MMPR system for incremental seats or 25% of seats from each state/UT could balance representation and address concerns of smaller states.



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