What's the best voting system?

ONE MAN, one vote.

It's a long-cherished principle in most democratic elections, and often seen to be the fairest way of crowning a winner in any popular contest.

But what if the one man, one vote system actually gives certain contestants an unfair advantage?

Take the Asian Idol competition held last month. The participating countries were India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore.

India has the biggest population of 1 billion. Singapore has the smallest at 4.5 million.

Assuming most voters in these countries will pick their home idols, surely there's no contest if every person can vote only once.

So, to eliminate the national bias, the organisers came up with the one man, two votes system. Both votes could not be for the same contestant.

When Singapore Idol Hady Mirza emerged as the surprise winner, the theory buzzed among netizens that he won by tactical voting.

That means voting for someone other than your sincere preference, to prevent an undesirable outcome.

So Asian Idol voters might have cast their first vote for their home idol, and the second vote for Hady, who might have been seen as the most unlikely winner as he was from the smallest country.

Dr Terence Chong, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said the one man, two votes system increases the chances of tactical voting.

'Assuming it's compulsory to use two votes and each vote must be for two different candidates, a voter may have one preferred vote and not know what to do with the other vote,' he said.

'Then tactics and psychology may come into play and heighten the chances of freak results. The voter could (cast the second) vote either for the weakest candidate or the second-best.'

Dr Gillian Koh, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, said: 'With the second vote, people could choose contestants they really thought were good singers and had star appeal. Maybe that was how Hady won.'

Dr Chong said it's hard to prove tactical voting, unless one asks the voters how they reached their decision.

'Maybe he (Hady) won the most number of second votes because most of the voters were girls who wanted the cute guy to win? There are so many possible reasons.'

But there's no one perfect voting system. As shown by the Asian Idol example, the one man, one vote system also has its flaws.

And detractors of the system has long criticised it for assuming that every man will use his vote wisely.

Also, in political elections where there are more than two parties, there may not be a clear majority. This may lead to coalition governments, which can be weaker and more unstable than majority governments.

source: http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,4136,153073,00.html


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