Friday, April 17, 2009

Electoral trivia

With the spectres of ‘hung Parliament’ and strange coalitions looming large in India, I was curious to know how other countries have designed their own electoral systems.

Through a quick google search, I found that there as many systems as there are democracies in this world. Every country has done something unique. And each has its own strong points and weaknesses.

Germany has a two-vote system, with the citizen casting two ballots, one to choose the candidate and a second to choose the party. Election takes place for 299 seats, while the parties get to nominate the other 299, in proportion to the votes polled.

Australia has a system of ‘preference voting”, wherein the voter is expected to list down his order of preference ( rank), not merely choose one. The preferences are then distributed, in a rather complicated manner, so as to select the winner. As Australia has made it mandatory for citizens to vote, apparently some disinterested voters walk in and, if there are say 10 candidates, fill in numbers 1-10 in serial order. This is referred to as ‘donkey voting” So, candidates who are listed on the top can have an advantage.

Italy ensures a working majority for a coalition or party which obtains a plurality of the vote, but less than 340 seats, by assigning additional seats to reach that number, corresponding roughly to a 54% majority.

At this point, my head started spinning and I abandoned the study.

No other country but India seems to have the complexity posed by multiple, regional parties. So, the system that we have evolved - for all its drawbacks- maybe the best that we can have. Unless we want to pick a few tips from Russia’s or China’s………

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