英総選挙 伝統の2大政党制に試練の時

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 10, 2010)
Britain's 2-party system turned on its head
英総選挙 伝統の2大政党制に試練の時(5月9日付・読売社説)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party was defeated in the general election on Thursday as the Conservative Party made dramatic gains to become Britain's largest party. The Liberal Democrats, the third-largest party, failed to increase their seats, contrary to earlier expectations.

However, the Conservatives fell short of winning an absolute majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, so the shape of the new British government still is undecided.

Britain's traditional two-party system, under which one of the two largest parties forms a stable government after securing a majority of seats, has begun to crumble.

In countries that have adopted a proportional representation system, it is common for no party to secure a majority of seats. However, it is the first time since 1974 for Britain, which has a simple single-seat constituency system, to face a hung parliament.

If either the Conservatives or the Labour Party want to form a stable government, they must both consider the coalition option by making overtures to the Liberal Democratic Party and smaller parties.

Whether a new administration can be launched smoothly is a challenge both major parties face.


Tories aided by Greece's woes

The Conservatives have become the largest party in Britain for the first time in 13 years, partly due to the euro crisis triggered by Greece's fiscal woes. The latest turmoil obviously helped the Tories, who do not want Britain to become a eurozone member and aim to regain the country's policy independence from the European Union.

The number of immigrants in Britain has risen to 14 percent of its total working population. The Conservatives' promise to stop the influx of immigrants to prevent the employment situation from worsening apparently appealed to the voters.

However, besides policies concerning the EU and immigrants, there are no distinctive differences between the two largest parties.

Both Labour and the Conservatives aim to make free competition consistent with social justice. In the general election, the swing in the vote was not significant enough to result in a landslide win. This is because the two parties failed to give the voters a range of options.

Britain's two largest parties have combined to win more than 90 percent of the vote in most general elections since the end of World War II. But the percentage fell below 70 percent in the general election in 2005 and further dropped in Thursday's general election. With its first-past-the-post system, the diverse will of the people is not reflected in the number of seats won.


Calls for electoral reform

As a result, a move calling for electoral reform has begun to emerge.

The Labour Party has proposed a change to the single-seat constituency system under which people would vote for more than one candidate, marking their ballots in order of preference. The Liberal Democratic Party is calling for a proportional representation system. The coalition talks will probably take up electoral reform.

During the general election campaign, a U.S.-style television debate was introduced for the first time and Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick Clegg soared in popularity at one point. The reason why this failed to lead to good results for his party can be put down to the existing electoral system.

In Japan, a two-party system finally emerged that allowed for a change of government. As Japan's politics is modeled on Britain's, we should closely watch what changes are made in that country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 9, 2010)
(2010年5月9日01時08分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-05-10 09:53 | 英字新聞

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