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UK referendum fails to arouse excitement

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UK referendum fails to arouse excitement


The referendum aimed at reforming the electoral system in the U.K. didn’t seem very popular by midday.

An officer in a central polling station near Victoria station said the number of voters was a lot less than the general election that happened a year ago. She didn’t want to be identified.

“We had more than 100 voters an hour in the previous election, today we’ve had about 45,” she said. The number of eligible voters in her section was 1100, of which only 183 had voted between 7 a.m. and noon.

The Alternative Vote (AV) gives voters a chance to rate the candidates in order of preference. If no candidate reaches the threshold of 50 percent, the ballots of the candidate with fewest votes will be redistributed among the rest based on second choices until one contender passes the 50 percent mark. Under the UK’s current electoral system, the candidate with the most outright votes wins the seat.

Outside the station, in an affluent road, some voters explained why they were for or against the change in the way members of parliament are chosen.

“A lot of our MPs get in without receiving 50 percent of the vote, sometimes they only get 35 percent,” said Sarah King-Turner. “Then they remain MPs for many years,” she said, adding that “MPs should justify themselves.”

Although she doubted that the new system would go through, King-Turner said she will say yes to the AV.

Jim Harper, who said he is writing a book on ‘emotionalism’, said ‘first past the post’ is the kind of election that is fair, therefore no change is required in the current system.

“Proportional representation will cause indecisiveness,” Harper said. “A coalition government is an indecisive government. When two parties with two different principles are in power together, what you get is a status quo.”

The ‘yes to AV’ camp says AV is fairer and makes politicians work harder for their seats. The ‘no’ camp argues that AV is more complicated to run and its result will be a parliament of second choices.

A poll by ComRes for The Independent suggested that the No campaign was ahead with a decisive overall lead of 56 to 29 percent only days before the voting.

Analysts argue that there is need for change in the current voting system because of its shortcomings, including a distorted outcomes. However, they say AV is not the best choice.

In a cafe near the parliament, a 62-year-old engineer supported the AV because it “will result in a parliament that’s more representative of the views of the people.”

“We’ve had a two-party system in this country, which hasn’t been representative of the views of teh population,” he said. “Smaller parties have a much higher support than reflected in the number of seats in the parliament.”

By Ali Sheikholeslami
London Correspondent

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