Can a Welsh Government be replaced by using pitchforks or a ranked choice voting system?

IF one is to believe the whispers on the wind that the Welsh Labour Government are in for a shock in 2026 with comfortable Labour MSs shown the red card then one has to believe that someone somewhere is ready to step forward to facilitate this impending tsunami in Welsh politics.

It is OK for people to get angry to gesticulate, speculate, plot and plan but the system of voting and the way in which political parties operate is slightly more problematic than they may believe. Apart from pitchfork rebellions or men in large hats with barrels of gunpowder it is still the only avenue open to us all. Often the most active on the keyboard are least active in real life face to face. As one contributor on the 20mph petition and debate said about the huge number of support online opposing the law:  “40k and 80 of us went to Cardiff.” That figure has now surpassed 400,000.

So how is this whispered revolution going to take place? Wales is a small country split up into a small number of constituencies. Elections to the Senedd Cymru use AMS. Voters in Wales cast two votes.

The first vote is for constituency members: 40 members of the Senedd (MS’s) are elected in this way. The second for regional members: 20 MS’s are elected in this way. Wales has five electoral regions, each covering between seven and nine constituencies. Four members are elected to represent each region.

Let’s take Llanelli and look at the last two Senedd elections. In 2016 Lee Waters was elected taking 37% of the votes. That left a whopping 65% of the votes available and in theory the likely winner with such a huge majority. But no, the voting system does not work that way and we get the person who got 37% of the votes, i.e 10267 to be exact. It was close with Helen Mary Jones taking 35% and 9885 votes a difference of only 382 votes/people.

Winner winner chicken dinner, Lee Waters MS

Had the other candidates for Welsh Conservatives, UKIP, Welsh Green Party, Putting Llanelli First and Welsh Liberal Democrats not stood the outcome may have been entirely different but that is only speculative. The RCV system of voting would most certainly have had a major impact on the outcome.

So why do people stand for election knowing full well they do not have a hope in hell’s chance of winning? They are not stupid people, in fact they have a good knowledge of politics and have good intentions. They want to challenge the status quo. What they actually do is split the vote and hand a victory to someone or other on a plate. Would UKIP have realistically come close given their candidate at the time had been embroiled in a debacle over Parc Howard. Did the Welsh Conservative have any hope in a town, which has been red for over 100 years? It is said often that if one pins a red rosette on a donkey in Llanelli at election time, it would get elected.


If we look at the 2021 elections we see that Lee Waters increased his majority to 46%. Almost 14,000 people in Llanelli voted for him. In contrast 5 of the other candidates got less than 800 votes a piece. On the basis of those figures even the closest party Plaid Cymru would require a swing of over 20% to take the seat. That equates to 6,043 votes on top of the 8255 they would have to replicate. if we look at the total percentage of the Senedd for each party that would require a 15% swing in voters to Welsh Conservatives and a 21% swing to Plaid Cymru and even then they would have to enlist the help of one party or another.

In it to win it you need a team

Democracy and the voting system dictates which political party takes control at the Senedd. Who those people are begins at local party level and a selection process. In short the person is presented as a candidate and we may know very little about them at all until they get their campaign going. That has to align with the political party’s specific manifesto and elements specific to that particular constituency. We back one horse or party in the hope they will deliver on those promises we were fed and we back that horse or party because our parents and our grand parents backed them. Or we back that horse or party because we can’t stand all the others. Our gallery of political pies will support our claim.

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Storming the USA the land of the free is a voting system known as Ranked-choice voting (RCV). It is an electoral system that allows people to vote for multiple candidates, in order of preference. Instead of just choosing who you want to win, you fill out the ballot saying who is your first choice, second choice, or third choice (or more as needed) for each position. Let’s not forget the role of the media and they too will have their preferences unless they are truly independent impartial publishers.

Following the RCV system the candidate with the majority (more than 50%) of first-choice votes wins outright. If no candidate gets a majority of first-choice votes, then it triggers a new counting process. The candidate who did the worst is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters’ ballots are redistributed to their second-choice pick. In other words, if you ranked a losing candidate as your first choice, and the candidate is eliminated, then your vote still counts: it just moves to your second-choice candidate. That process continues until there is a candidate who has the majority of votes. Will this be adopted in Wales? Who knows.

Until then, those whispering on the wind of change will need to shout much louder and will need to ensure they have done all the work necessary or continue to live in the hope and belief that some bloke in a mask and a hat and a Barrel of gunpowder will come to your rescue or that one day there will be a spike in the sale of pitchforks. Until that day we have a democracy and a voting system, which will determine who represents us at the Senedd and Westminster. Mr Waters and most of his Welsh Labour colleagues will sleep easily in the knowledge that they will retain their seats in 2026 IF they decide to stand.

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