What Does "Proportional Representation" Mean?


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Proportional representation is a term which describes an electoral format in which parties win seats in a legislature in proportion to their share of the votes cast. In other words, the number of seats that a political party wins is more or less proportional to the percentage of votes received for that particular political party.

This method is contrasted with what is known as a "first past the post system", where the country is divided up into areas, or constituencies, which each elect their own representative. This method invariably means that the most popular party will get the lion's share of the seats, and minority parties will not get any representation at all, despite the fact that a number of people will have voted for them.

Britain still has a "first past the post" system, despite the fact that most of the rest of Europe now has proportional representation.

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