A commentary on the UK General Election 2015 - a problem of the electoral system

Sending applause to the vigorous exertions of the UK Green Party

The UK election is over. The Green Party Korea expresses the deepest gratitude for the UK Green Party’s hard work as a member of the Global Greens.

The interesting result of the election was reminiscent of Korean politics. The Conservatives won anyhow, as Saenwuri Party did in Korea. The defeat of the Labour Party, the leading opposition camp, resembles that of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) party. The Labour party also fall behind the Scottish National Party (SNP), which proposed Scottish independence.

The electoral system is what shows the most similarity between the two countries. Both systems lack proportionality of the number of seats won at elections with the vote. The popularity of the Conservatives was not high enough to win the majority seats in the House. The labour party also holds more seats than their approval rating. So do Saenwuri and NPAD. The problem is the voting system, which gives more seats to major parties than the votes they obtained, and makes it the race only between the first and second parties. Both Korea and UK adopt Single-member District Plurality Ballot system, which operates on a winner-takes-it-all basis. Furthermore, UK does not have proportional representatives.

Such system does not fairly represent the popular will, especially that of minor parties and their supporters, as it creates high levels of wasted votes. It just reinforces the two-party system, famously known as Duverger’s law. The negative consequences of the two-party system have been evident in Korea. The two major parties subsist on each other’s faults and errors, while clear ideologies and policies are pushed aside. The absence of initiative minor parties with fundamental visions leads to the absence of proper tension and renovation actions.

Regardless of political lines there is endless confrontation to take power, and rampant defamation and slandering. The existence of minor parties could work to alleviate such binary contest, but there is no room for consensus in a dichotomous party politics and barely possibilities of strategic demonstration of political coalition. The major parties are often rife with intense intraparty factionalism, and, ironically, there are sweetheart deals taking place at critical phases. The electoral system aggravates people’s abhorrence of politics, and it requires reform.

The UK Green Party’s approval rating ranges around 5 percent, but they ended up winning just one seat out of the total 650 seats. They could have won more than 30 seats under the proportional representation system as in Germany. They could have quite a few elected representatives in the second-placed regions if it were under the multi-seat constituency system that elects multiple members per electoral district, or if there were a run-off election as in France. In that way, they could have form one of the mainstays of the ‘coalition government’ as the German Green Party did. In fact, the German Green Party’s approval rating in the poll stands at less than 10 percent, which is not much higher than that of the UK Green Party. The UK Green Party is the typical victim of the UK electoral system.

We, therefore, applaud the UK Green Party for their achievement, which is a valuable bud that has bloomed amongst the two-party dominance, the extreme right flow, and rabid fervor for Scottish independence. Tracing its origins to 1973 when the “People” Party was set up, the UK Green Party has a longer history than the German Green Party. The spread of the Green Party movement in Korea even feels relatively rapid. The 42 years of long struggle of the UK Green Party makes us inspired.

The UK Green Party has been devoting itself to an economic policy and labour policy out of concerns for protecting ecology from corporate exploitation. A few examples include: firmly defending the National Health Service (NHS); converting non-cooperative businesses to cooperatives; and introducing the workers’ participation system. Despite the concern that its potential supporters would be captivated by Edward Samuel Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party who served as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the UK Green Party established an organic connection between ‘ecology’ and ‘social justice’ and successfully attracted progressive voters who felt betrayed by the Labour Party. The remarkable activities of Caroline Lucas, the first Green member of Parliament, and Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, increases the public’s trust of the party, drawing the reputation as a political party with a narrative. With a more than 20 percent approval rating among the young generations, the UK Green Party is closely chasing the Labour Party competing with the conservatives.

The Green Party Korea have been learning much from the UK Green Party, from their experience of establishing a regional base in a hostile environment, and their brilliant translation of ecological wisdom in human language. We are in the process of building new pathways for the Green Party Korea, trying to overcome and make best out of the given situations, along with an effort to reform the electoral system. The Green Party Korea once again send a message of support and express our solidarity to the people of the UK Green Party, the elected representative, all the unsuccessful candidates and their supporters, and all the members of the party, who give us hope and consolation.

 

May 8th, 2015

Green Party Korea

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