Monday, May 3, 2010

British Elections - Brits prepare for minority government rule

I've always been fascinated by the British political system, which is generally referred to as a parliamentary democracy.  It's highly useful to study because it represents a different style of government that works well for a nation very much like our own, which uses a presidential system, and there's lots of useful lessons in comparing the way the British approach things to our own.

One aspect of the parliamentary system is that the ruling party is determined by parliamentary elections.  The leader of the party that wins the most seats becomes Prime Minister and forms a government.  The Prime Minister does not personally stand for election nationwide, although I suspect a lot of votes for local Members of Parliament ("MPs") are cast based on who the party's leader is rather than the local MP.  In short, there's no "ticket splitting" (voting for a congressional candidate from one party and a President from the other) the way we understand it in the US.

Still, the English will go to the polls on Wednesday, and for the first time since the 1970s are likely to split votes among three parties - the Conservatives (aka the "Tories"), Labour, and the Liberals.  Labour is the incumbent party, but the least likely of the three to win the most seats.  Accordingly, we'll likely see a minority government, where the party that wins the most seats will need to work with other parties to form a working majority.

We'll be watching and trying to learn from this...should be very interesting!'

For more, British historian Simon Schama breaks it down for the readers of the New Yorker.

Note: the picture above is the Prime Minister's official residence at number 10, Downing Street, in London.

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