No voting process is perfect

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to Mr Chen Junyi’s 2 Sept 2011 reply to my letter.

Mr Chen claims that there are several ways by which ranking can be translated into a voting score. Actually there are just two main ways: (1) the instant run-off voting method which successively eliminates the weakest candidate until a clear majority emerges and (2) the Condorcet’s method which attempts to find the candidate who would beat all the other candidates on a one-on-one fight. Mr Chen disapproves of instant run-off voting, preferring instead, the Condorcet method. He is of the belief that Mr Tan Kin Lian was the second choice for 95% of Singaporeans. Given such a scenario, Mr Tan Kin Lian would have beaten all other candidates on a one-on-one and won the elections based on the Condorcet’s method.

Mr Chen should realise that be it the instant run-off voting method or the Condorcet’s method, the outcome would have invariably been better than the result we now have. If Mr Chen feels that Mr Tan Kin Lian is the most acceptable compromise candidate and ought to have won instead, he should all the more support a ranking system that can elect a president supported by most Singaporeans. A compromise candidate supported of most Singaporeans is a good choice for healing the political divide. It is far better to have him as our president than a candidate who might possibly command support from only 35% of Singaporeans.

No voting system is perfect doesn’t mean we remain status quo and avoid seeking improvements. Singaporeans should be allowed to decide whether or not to switch to a ranking system that is superior to what we currently have. The choices presented by the ranking system should not paralyse us but should spur us towards greater political awareness instead. Whether we choose the instant run-off voting method or the Condorcet’s method is something that we as a nation can collectively decide. In any case, the Condorcet’s method is rarely used in real life to elect governments whereas the instant run-off voting method has seen many successful implementations in Australia, the US and the UK and is also much easier for voters to understand.

There is every indication that any form of ranking system will turn out better than what we currently have. It is less prone to manipulation regardless of the voting spectrum and will churn out the candidate accepted and supported by most Singaporeans.

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