Wednesday 7 September 2011


Alternative voting formats not the answer
Chen Junyi (ST Forum, Aug 30, 2011)

MR FOO Chee Choong ('First-past-the-post system unfair in multi-cornered contest'; yesterday) argued against the first-past-the-post voting format, offering the options of giving each voter two votes, and a run-off by the top two candidates after the first round of voting. However, these do not address the issue of fairness, nor can they prevent slim margins between the winner and runner-up.

Each voter has a fair chance to decide for himself which candidate to support, or none at all through spoiling his vote. There is only one vacancy for the office of president. If the voter knows who he wants as president, even if given two votes, he would still cast both to the same candidate. An indecisive voter who splits his votes is ceding the advantage to others who are decisive.

Saying president-elect Tony Tan has 65 per cent of the voters against him does not stand up to scrutiny.

First, going by that 'logic', the other candidates, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Mr Tan Jee Say and Mr Tan Kin Lian, have 66 per cent, 75 per cent and 95 per cent, respectively, voting against them.

Second, the election is to vote for the president one supports, not who one is against. Anyone who chooses to act otherwise does so at his own peril.

Having elimination rounds does not do justice either. Why should a voter who has chosen a candidate be compelled to vote for another in a subsequent round? Such coercion cannot be construed as genuine support to the second-round candidates, making hollow any claims of majority backing.

Without the coercion, it is possible that no candidate may be able to garner more than 50 per cent of the votes. Even with the coercion, there will be voters who would rather cast spoilt votes than vote for a candidate they do not support.

Resentment occurs even if the candidate wins more than 60 per cent of the votes in a single round. All sorts of arguments can be made against a winning candidate who captures anything less than 100 per cent of the votes, in which case there would have been no contest in the first place.

First-past-the-post system unfair in multi-cornered contest
Foo Chee Choong (ST Forum, Aug 29, 2011)

I CONGRATULATE Dr Tony Tan on winning the second contested presidential election, and being the nation's seventh president ('Tony Tan is president'; yesterday).

However, it is disturbing that an elected president did not receive more than a 50 per cent majority of votes.

One could even argue that 65 per cent of the electorate voted against the president-elect with Dr Tony Tan squeezing by with a razor-thin 0.34 per cent margin ahead of Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

Perhaps the first-past-the-post voting format should not be used in a multi-contested presidential election.

A fairer option is to give each voter two votes so he can either vote for two candidates, or just one.

I am certain the results will be different if such a voting system is used.

A run-off by the top two candidates after the first round of voting is another option, but it is time-consuming and disruptive.

In any case, the Elections Department should consider an alternative format if a multi-cornered fight arises in the next presidential election.

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