Sunday, August 06, 2006

Interesting wording - Mexican Election Post #20

In this morning's Washington Post the story on the Tribunal's decision contains the following statement -

"The tribunal's decision greatly increases the chances of victory for Felipe Calderón, a free-trade booster from the National Action Party of outgoing President Vicente Fox."

Presumably, the victory of a candidate depends on the number of votes received. This process is merely verifying the results not determining the outcome.

In another part of the story the Post commented "A growing number of political commentators in Mexico are saying that López Obrador has raised enough doubt about the outcome to create a legitimacy problem for Calderón if his victory is upheld." The commentators who have said that are primarily from the left. However, a number of commentators have commented that a president who begins with a divided country (and this was true for Clinton with a less than majority vote and certainly Bush) has a harder time of claiming a mandate.

The broader question of how democracies elect candidates who reflect a concensus in the population is an interesting one. One suggestion that has been offered for Mexico comes from Public Choice theory (and indeed from the Irish system). Public Choice Economics, the field initially developed by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, has done a lot of discussion and thought about serial voting systems. Voters come to the polls with multiple motives. Consider an election where you have five candidates from far left to far right. Assume for a moment that a voter is generally supportive of one of the middle candidates (perhaps the center right candidate) but wants to send a message that candidates on the right do not pay enough attention to social issues. A rational voter in a serial system might cast a vote for the far left candidate on the first ballot and then cast one for their real choice on the second. That is somewhat analogous to the situation in the Connecticut election for senator - Lieberman looks like a sure loser in the primary but is likely to win in the general. But this system would happen on one ballot. Voters would express a first and a second preference - if a candidate won an outright victory on the first ballot, the candidate would be declared the winner. But if no one received 50%, the counting would go to the second preference. In some proposals like that only the top two vote candidates would be counted (in essence, the voters who voted for the ones thrown out would have their second votes counted). In any event, the second ballot would likely move one of the candidates to 50%. Were this system in place in Mexico, MALO would have had a better chance of being elected - as the third largest vote getter was a far left candidate and presumably most of her votes would go to MALO. But with this extra opportunity, voters might also exercise a bit more sophistication. What the serial voting alternative would do is prevent extremists from being elected - the ends are more likely to get lopped off than the center candidates.

Obviously, the serial voting proposals have an underlying assumption about the rationality of the voters - which a lot of political consultants disbelieve. But that is another story.

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