Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Star Letter: It’s just a numbers trick

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From Star Letters to Editors

I READ with some distress the argument put forth by the Opposition and Bersih that our elections are unfair, on the basis that the ratio of votes to seats that the Barisan Nasional enjoys is lower than that of the losers.

This is quite simple mathematics, and works on all types of competitions where first past the post is the rule.

If the competing parties are fighting in two-horse races for seats in three constituencies of 5,000 people each, and the winners of two seats are from the BN with 3,000 votes, while the third seat is won by the Opposition with also 3,000 votes, then simple mathematics shows that the BN raked in 8,000 votes or on average 4,000 votes each for two seats, while the opposition won 7,000 votes but only got one seat.

It's the same in sports. If a person spends X amount of money to train and wins nothing then the money goes to waste, because only to the victor goes the spoils of competition.

Nobody cares who comes in second. The silver medal is only for the best loser.

Does this mean that the process is unfair? Of course, not.

If we have agreed to the first-past-the-post rule, then the numbers will ultimately be skewed against the loser.

It's simple mathematics, and yet the Opposition and Bersih are hoodwinking the people with numbers in their effort to accuse the Government of holding unfair elections.

There is no proportionate representation in Malaysia because each constituency wants to elect its own representative.

The voters do not want the party to choose their representatives for them at the central level, which is what would happen in a proportionate representation system.

A proportional representation system is unfair because the people do not actually get the representatives they want; they get what the party chooses for them.

First past the post is a system that ensures direct responsibility between the representatives and the electorate, whereas in a proportional representation system those sitting in the House are beholden to the party leadership that appoints them to the seat.

The first-past-the-post system ensures better accountability for each seat, and that is why it remains the system of choice for most democracies.

If the Malaysian people want proportionate representation they should work towards changing the Constitution, but for so long as we continue to use the tried and tested first-past-the-post system, the Opposition will have to accept that their vote to seat ration is going to be abysmal.

I call on the opposition to stop hoodwinking the people using this lame mathematical argument.

Sungai Petani, Kedah.

1 comment:

Wayne Smith said...

Government is not a trophy, and elections are not a sporting event. Elections are about choosing our representatives, and everyone is entitled to representation, even the "losers".

Most voters vote on the basis of which party they wish to support, not for the local representative. They know that it is political parties that hold the power, and that the elected member will always toe the party line.

The accountablility of individual members to their constituents is illusory. Most members of parliament represent mostly people who voted against them.

Proportional representation gives voters the power to hold political parties accountable, by ensuring that each party gets political power only in proportion to the votes it receives, and that no party gets an artifical majority.

There is no accountability when voters do not get the government they voted for.