The Most Important Difference Between the Voting Systems in Spain and the UK

The Most Important Difference Between the Voting Systems in Spain and the UK

Although we could think Spanish and British voting systems are very similar, because both of them are democratic systems, there are many differences between them. Some of them are, at least for me, incomprehensible. For example, the existence of two houses in the UK, called respectively the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It is true that in Spain we have two houses as well, but the difference is that if you want to become Prime Minister in UK you have, since 1922, to be member of the House of Commons. This is not so in Spain, where you only have one condition to be elected president: to be at least 18 years old. This is, for me, more logical. If you can vote, you can be voted for. That, in essence, is democracy. If you had to be member of the House of Commons or, in Spain, of the Congress (despite the fact that all Spanish democratic presidents have been members) to become president, it limits the number of people who can be elected to 650 (from nearly 42 million people), and that, in some way, is discrimination, something supposed to be abolished in a democratic systems, besides it is true that if you want to become Prime Minister you are supposed to be dedicated entirely to politics and your electoral campaign, and then you have to be part of the House of Commons.

In relation to the House of Lords, I think they should not be Lords Spiritual (ecclesiastic members, mainly bishops), because, in my opinion, Church and Politics, despite being historically intertwined, must be separated, because the political measures which may have been beneficial for the Church historically have not been as beneficial for the people, something that may happen nowadays as centuries ago. Also, in Spain the Senate (which is the Spanish equivalent to the British House of Lords) has important functions; for example, if the Government wants to approve a new law, the Senate must approve it before the Congress makes the law effective. But in UK the House of Lords barely has functions, such as to reject laws, but only for a year, or monitoring government performance through questions and commissions of inquiry. But this control is secondary, it does not have the capacity to question the government's responsibility, so I do not understand why the Government continues to maintain the House of Lords, or, if it does, not give it more importance, distributing the political functions between the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

In the UK only a simple majority of votes to win is required. This is called the “first past the post system”: if you have more votes than your rival, you win (if there is a draw itlots will be drawn). But in Spain you need absolute majority, so if you do not have on yourself, you will need the help of other party. This is called “parties coalition”, which simply consists on the political union of two or more political parties to sum up enough percentage to win.
In my opinion, UK system is better. If you win, you win. You have had more votes than the other candidate and, therefore, you have beaten the other political parties. A coalition of political parties is something ridiculous from my point of view, not only because of the fact that if a party has lost, it can govern with another party which offers a coalition, but for ideological reasons: Plato said that the best Government system was monarchy, because in democratic systems decisions were taken very late, due to the need for everybody to express their opinion before doing anything, but if there was corruption it was the worst, because all despotic decisions came from one single person with unlimited power, while in a democracy the decisions are taken by many more people and, so, it was more difficult to corrupt (something that nowadays appears to have inverted). So, if two different parties make a political coalition, then any political decision is very hard to take, because of their different ideology, despite being coincident at certain points, will make both parties disagree on some points, and that will, as Plato said, delay the actions and that is, obviously, bad for the State, because a Government has to be able to take decisions quickly, not to argue among themselves while the entire country is waiting.

The “two party system”, which consists of the existence of only two political parties, the Liberal and the Conservative, is, I think, a big problem. In Spain there are so many political parties, but in the end is the same as the UK: nearly everybody votes PSOE or PP, but still you can vote other political parties. I personally do not like this “two party system”. Anyone can disagree with some promises one party makes, and then that person can see if there is a similar party with similar ideology, but with a different opinion in the aspect the person disagreed with the other party. But if there are only two political parties, it is very difficult that you agree in with everything they promise. For example, imagine I think that education should be in semi-private schools only. Party A says that it should be in private schools, and party B that it should be in public schools. In this case, I do not agree with any of them, so if I vote either party A or party B I will not be entirely satisfied, but if I make a blank vote, I would support indirectly something which I do not agree with. So, I do not vote, because if I do, I would be voting for something I do not agree with. Then, I would be able to say that the democratic system has coerced me not to vote. Is that a real democratic system?

From my point of view, another big problem in UK electoral system is the “cubic law”, which is used to determine the seats that a party will have in the House of Commons: in Spain is made a directly proportional law: the more votes you have, the more seats you will have in the Congress. But in UK the same law is applied with a difference: the number of votes of each party is cubed, something that, obviously, makes bigger the votes differences between the parties. For example, if the party A has 67% of votes and party B 33%, the proportion between A and B seats is not 67/33=2.03, but 663/333=8.37, which is of course different, beneficiating to the winning party, meaning that party A will have nearly 4 times more seats that it would have with a proportional law. I think this is a very bad system for the UK, because if you reduce the members of the opposite party, the party that won would be able to do anything they want and approve any actions without anyone to stop them, because in any poll their own votes will be enough to approve anything, independently form what the other party votes. And, of course, as we said before, the House of Lords will be able to reject that law, but only for a year. In Spain the difference between the seats of the two main political parties in both Houses is generally little (16 members in the Congress after 2008 poll). This is a statistical measure not a rule of division.

Another thing I do not see logical is the fact that UK, despite having a population 1.5 times higher than Spain, has 1379 political members with the sum of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, while Spain only has 614 political members with the sum of the Congress and the Senate, more than half the UK number. I think they should be more political members in Spain, because, despite being autonomous political representatives, in matters of national govern there are, in my opinion, less than they should be, so people cannot be represented correctly by their corresponding autonomy deputies in national political affairs. But in UK people can be represented better, because they have more political members. I think, therefore, that Spain should have more members, in the Congress at least, because is there where any matter of interest is discussed.

So, in conclusion, I will say that Spanish and British political systems are more different than one might think at first. Sometimes, the Spanish system is better than the British. Other times, the British system is better than Spanish. Both systems can be, from my point of view, improved. But, despite all these differences, both systems have been long time in operation, and have shown they are perfectly valid. So I think those differences that for me are incomprehensible, are in some way justified, although on some occasions they have proved not to be adequate. Probably, political parties should stop fighting between them, being their only reason of existence the necessity of political power at any price, and care more about the well-being of the country.