By Jason Moore
WHILE smaller parties often miss-out with Britain's first past-the-post voting system, proportional representation gives them far greater power than their real status. There are a number of classic examples, where parties which have polled only a small amount of votes can hold the big boys almost to ransom. In Majorca, Maria Antonia Munar's Majorcan Unionist Party received just 25'000 votes in the last local elections but she still commands the top job in the islands (leader of the Council of Majorca) because the Partido Popular needed her support for an overall majority. Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero has been forced to pact with Catalan nationalists to gain a majority and this is already causing serious problems for the Prime Minister. With proportional representation it is exceptionally difficult to get a majority and the party that does so, has to be very popular indeed. In the Balearics, the Partido Popular spent four years in opposition because they were a couple of thousand votes short of a majority even though they polled almost 100'000 more votes that their nearest rival. Is democracy served better by proportional representation or first past the post? It's difficult to say. Economic success depends heavily on political stability and with coalition government there are always going to be disputes especially if you are forced to pact with smaller parties who may have radical manifestos. Zapatero, counts on the support of the Republic Left Wing Party, who, as you can imagine, have some quite radical ideas on how Spain should be administered. First past the post, usually gives you a clear winner; for second you get nothing. With proportional representation the party which came sixth can be with the winner. Democracy at work? I'll let you decide.

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