Saturday, May 26, 2007

Perhaps a Way Out

mlq3 points to an interesting post by Chasing Sass on the absence of absolute majorities in our recent presidential elections. Mr. Quezon of course has long pushed for run-off elections to avoid minority presidencies. As it is now, a candidate who wins by a plurality, while good enough for our constitution, is apparently not good enough to provide effective governance.

It's a function of support: While 40% may be enough to win in a multi-candidate race, it also means 60% of voters would have preferred somebody else. It means more than half the electorate would be disposed in varying degrees to oppose the winner. Thus, only a consummate coalition builder (like Ramos) might weather a term intact. His successor as we know wasn't as lucky. And the current occupant, who has at times been exceedingly inept and at times exceedingly adept, still has 3 years to go with an opposition screaming for her blood.

No doubt an absolute majority is still to be preferred.

As it might prove well-nigh impossible to reconstruct the pre-Marcos two-party system, we have to explore other methods of producing absolute majorities. Run-off elections come first to mind. It's the simplest but costliest solution, requiring another election (the 'run-off') to determine the winner between the top 2 candidates. An alternative would be the instant-runoff, where voters rank the candidates in order of preference, and low-scoring candidates are systematically eliminated in successive rounds of counting. A good article explaining instant-runoffs can be found in Wikipedia.

Though they might produce absolute majorities, run-offs, whether regular or instant, still fail to take voters' dislikes into account, just their preferences. Even if a candidate has an absolute majority, there might still be a significant bloc of people (though less than 50%) vehemently opposed to him. If persistent and consistent enough, such a bloc could impede the candidate's ability to govern well (or in Erap's case, to govern at all). Alternatively, the candidate might use his absolute majority to bully his agenda through, without any regard for the legitimate interests of those opposed to him. It might serve better then to select for a candidate not quite as popular but more acceptable to the erstwhile opposition.

My own preference is for something akin to the 'net approval rating' so beloved of survey firms and pollsters. Just two lines in the ballot: who you're for, and who you're against. The difference between 'for' and 'against' votes gives the candidate's net approval vote. Highest net approval vote wins. Striking a balance between most popular and least offensive, the candidate then would be the most acceptable to the electorate.

There's a good article on Wikipedia that discusses voting systems. Excellent food for thought.

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