On May 6, more than 2 million voters will be called to elect their 60 representatives in the Senedd / Welsh Parliament.
The Senedd was established in 1999, together with the Scottish Parliament, and holds extensive powers on key areas of government – including education, health, economic development, public services and some taxes.
For the first time, and thanks to campaigning by groups like ERS Cymru, Welsh elections will see 16-year-olds and over being allowed to cast their votes, along with an estimated 33,000 qualifying foreign nationals, thus expanding the franchise for a more democratic process.
The elections will employ the Additional Member System (AMS), which uses a mix of Westminster-like First Past the Post and Party Lists. The same system is used in elections for the Scottish Parliament and the London Assembly.
Voters get two ballot papers. One to elect a local MS for their constituency, and one to decide on the strength of the parties in the Senedd.
40 Members of the Senedd (MS) are elected from the Westminster-style First Past the Post (FPTP) ballot paper to be local MSs. The candidate with most votes is elected for each constituency, even if they get fewer than half the votes.
The remaining 20 MSs (the so-called additional members) are added to top up the amount of local MSs each party won so that their total number of MSs is as close to the share of the vote they won on the second, party ballot paper, as possible.
This means that parties with support spread out across the country can still win representation, even if they do not have enough voters in a single constituency to win one of the local MS seats. The result is a more proportional parliament.
According to the latest polls, Labour – which is currently in power – sees a tight race in a number of marginal seats, in what could be the closest devolved election in Welsh history. Conservatives and Plaid Cymru follow up as second and third party respectively.
Diverging opinions on key areas of debate include, amongst others, strategies for post-pandemic recovery and the future relationships with the EU and the UK.
A Senedd too small?
A long-lasting debate on whether to expand the size of the Senedd will certainly surface in view of May’s elections. ERS Cymru has long been campaigning to introduce new members to the Senedd, given the growing responsibilities that the body has power to legislate upon. Enhancing the capacity of the chamber would ensure greater representation across the regions of Wales, as well as more comprehensive policymaking- which is currently object of disservice.
A more representative system
As Welsh voters prepare to go to the polls in May they can do so knowing that their vote will count and the parliament elected will be representative – a luxury most voters in England don’t have at this election. And now, after 20 years of PR in Wales surely it’s time Westminster caught up and ensured that voters in England could vote with the same peace of mind.
Federico Scolari is a Communications Placement student at the ERS from the University of Nottingham.