How the british elect their parliament

The British voting system — the system by which we elect our parliament — is different from others in Europe.

Britain is nodivided into 650 areas, tailed constituencies. Each constituency is represented by one Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons.

MPs are elected in a general election and the leader of the party which has the most MPs in Parliament becomes the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must call a general election at least every five years.

Citizens who are 18 years old or older may vote in general elections, but voting is not compulsory. People who are not allowed to vote include members of the Royal Family, members of the House of Lords, people serving prison sentences and some patients in mental hospitals.

Anybody over 21 can stand for election providing they are not disqualified for any reason — bankrupts, some clergy, members of the House of Lords and certain government employees are excluded. And anyone can form a political party.

There are, currently, two main parties — Conservative (right wing) and Labour (left wing). There is an influential centre party called the Liberal Democrats, and another much smaller, centre party known as the Social Democratic Party (SDP). There are also nationalist parties from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Each voter goes to a polling station in his/her constituency. There he/she is given a piece of paper on which the names of the candidates and the parties they represent are printed. The voter draws a cross (X) next to the candidate of his/her choice. When voting has finished, the votes are added up.

This voting system is commonly called the first-past-the-post system. Most other European democracies use a proportional representation system where the number of representatives elected for any party more accurately reflects the number of people who voted for that party.

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