Proportional representation gives political voice in parliament to groups that in “first-past the post” system, are not represented.
The reason is that in proportional representation, in national elections and other elections, minor parties can get candidates elected. This happens because even a few votes in each electoral district can, when added together, reach the number needed to have a representative in parliament.
In first past the post systems, that is not possible because each local political district elects one representative, and only one. All other votes in the district do not count.
For example, a party may finish second in all districts, but only the party who wins the district will have a representative elected.
Defenders of first past the post system say that it favours majority government, and by one party. They believe majority governments can accomplish more because they have the votes to pass the legislation and policies they want.
I do not believe that is good. First past the post allows the winning party to do things that are very controversial because they have a parliamentarian majority. By controversial, I mean that large numbers of citizens may oppose what the government does, it does not matter. Even worse, a majority government can do things that even its own electorate opposes. How can that be democractic?
Not surprisingly, first past the post and majority governments alienate many citizens.
In spite of its flaws, the system has worked reasonably well in the UK, Canada and other “Anglo-Saxon” countries. But I do not believe it is because the system is good. I believe it is because, for whatever reason, the “Anglo-Saxons” have shown, for the past several centuries, unusual political intelligence, unusual political common sense, regardless of what the formal system says.
You can see that clearly in the UK.
In the UK, not only do they have a first past the post system, they also have no formal separation between church and state; the Queen of England is also the Head of the Church of England. That is not very democratic, formally, yet the British people have had more political stability and better democracy than countries with a system formally more democratic; France comes to mind, as well as Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.
What this means is that it is much better to have a population with political intelligence and a system which formally has deep flaws, than a formally superior system where the people, the elites, whatever, show less political common sense.
The UK, with no proportional representation and no separation between Church and State is one of the more politically stable and more democratic countries on Earth. Unfortunately, as the British say: “you can not legislate common sense”.
Proportional representation is more democratic, but it does not solve the root problem of representative democracy; the elected politicians have too much power and the people too little. This means the government, the politicians can pass laws, regulation and adopt policies, even if 100% of the people want to stop them, they can’t, they have to wait till the next election.
Unfortunately, when the politicians can ignore the will of many people, and the people can do nothing about it, many feel democracy is not working; we do not have a democracy. Representative democracy generates alienation in many citizens who do not feel represented or listened to by the politicians, even under proportional representation.
Such pools of people are the swamps where political violence festers and explodes.
That is the key advantage of direct democracy, even in first past the post countries. In a representative democracy, as little as 1% of the voters can force a popular and binding referendum on any law or policy , even if all the elected representatives support it.
This means that ina direct democracy the people democratically decide, niot just elect politicians, they control the politicians. When citizens see that their fellow citizens have democratically decided, for example, to increase taxes, decrease taxes, institute or decrease or increase the minimum wage, increasing or reducing immigration…, anything, it is impossible for the citizens who oppose the decision taken by the majority of voters, not by the politicians, not to accept it.
Direct democracy is better democracy because in it, the people, democratically, decide any issue the people want to decide.
In a direct democracy, even a small group can force a referendum. This means that even small groups have a direct mechanism to act and know they have a say. In a direct democracy the results of popular referendums are also binding for the government; the government has to comply with the decision of the people.
So, if you want better democracy, better representation, less, or no violent demonstration, less political extremists, less polarisation, more political stability… in the US, in the UK, in Canada, in Germany, in France, in Norway… anywhere, demand direct democracy.
If you do not demand it, the politicians will never bring direct democracy because representative democracy gives them a lot more power; power also means money, both very addictive.