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#3793: On the inherent imperfections of elections : Poincy comments

From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>

If I understand well, Antoine is asking Aristide not run for president
out of nobility to show that he was never behind the violence attributed
to his party or because he feels that the man is not up to par to
conduct the affaires of Ayiti. Either way it's not a fair demand on the
man especially if he has a little dream for Ayiti and the people. No one
but him can make or can't make it come true. Provided that he has the
popularity, he is to be given a chance to prove it, otherwise he will
always be an adored leader.

We know that his past popularity has been in question, himself does not
seem too comfortable neither, otherwise he would not advocate to do only
one election. With or without his presence in the process, members of
his party should be able to sweep the ballots if he thinks it can be so
in the event one election for all in December. Maybe, he feels that
history can repeat itself. He could be right or wrong. 

Since we rely so much on election to prove a point let's try to
understand how election, as conducted, can never be a way to prove
fairly if one is the best and strongest candidate to be elected in
office. This process of choosing an elite group to take public matters
in hands, although effective in reflecting collective choice over
government officials, is tricky and never produces a perfect result. 

The mere fact to set guidelines on the procedures is a proving point of
its inexactness in showing a perfect representation of the choices by
all. The form chosen by different societies exhibits a more or less
perfect representation of the citizenry. For that matter, a society in
transition can live with any result tainted with imperfection or some
frauds. Ayiti paid dearly for not taking this aspect into account by
wanting a perfect outcome from 1997 elections. I hope this time around
party's officials will come to grip with this harsh reality about the
collective choice of public officials.

Put aside frauds, which is a direct action of party officials, I want to
highlight the inherent imperfection of elections. It has to do with the
fact that every individual partaking in the voting process has a set of
preferences over the range of candidates referred to them. The values of
voters' preferences vary in different degree relatively to each
candidate. By this there is no arrested preference for one candidate.
One candidate can be preferred more or less over another. For an
election process to be perfectly effective in presenting all voters'
preferences, it would have to allow all voters to cast ballots for all
candidates at the same time, according to the value they place on each

The general result would be very chocking. The candidate that has the
majority of the votes would be less liked and the one that has the
minority of the votes would be liked more than the former. Consequently,
in a system where all voters are able to cast ballots for each candidate
separately, the minority candidate from a general result would be
elected in office provided that all voters preferences are added.
Implementing this system would render the process very sophisticated.
However, that would be ideal to counteract all inherent imperfections to
the system.

Although desired, this system appeared to be quite impractical. To avoid
some imperfections, it makes sense to narrow the number of candidates
who participate in the general elections. The primary system prevalent
in the US does it so very effectively as all voters' set of preferences
is reduced to two candidates in a general election. They are not thorn
by their subjective ways of making a choice. It's either candidate A or
candidate B. Voters who feel they can't translate well their preference
on such a narrow field tend to stay out of the process and become

The run off system adopted by Ayiti addresses the complicated aspect of
keeping the field of candidates relatively large with more than two in
general elections. In the first round, if no one obtains a 50% + 1,  (or
a certain ceiling is not reached as majority depending on the rules
governing the process) there is another round. (I need to note that here
is no logic behind what is considered a ceiling. A 50% + 1 or else is
far from being one. Although it works in finalizing the process, it can
be very hard for elected officials to make effective decisions with
unanimous consent, the ideal especially in a place where minority voices
are not tolerated. I presume that Aristide who senses such difficulties
feels that 2/3 majority would help him with great ease to make changes
that he wishes to make in the system, if he can't get unanimity.)

If the result falls under the ceiling another round there are more
rounds to come to narrow the field. In being what it is in Ayiti, if
candidates do not have as much popularity as Aristide deciding only on
two rounds of votes would never give a true picture of the
collectivity's preferences. More rounds would be needed. It would be
costly and I don't think the public would have the stamina to put up
with it. Nonetheless, the two rounds do give the voters a chance to
better state their preferences than if it were one round. Still, a
system with multiple rounds does not do away with the imperfections of
elections if all voters are not allowed to caste ballots for all
candidates as I pointed earlier. 

This is how these imperfections are explained. Please, I'll try my best
to make it as simple as possible. First, when considering a system with
a one-shot election process with 4 candidates: A, B, C and D, the basic
rule would be whoever has a majority would be elected. Let's say for 20
votes: A would have 9 votes, B would have 6 votes, C would have 3 votes
and D would have 2 votes. According to the one-shot system, A with 9
votes is a clear winner; however A is not liked by the majority of the
voters as 11 votes which consist the majority would be split among
minority candidates. The winner would have a though time to get his/her
programs going and the majority of voters would be losers. That does not
seem a fair and just game.

Obviously, two rounds of voting seem to be the remedy to this
inconvenience, but it does not white out all imperfections of elections.
For voters, being restricted to express one value of his set of
preferences, do not have the chance to express other values of their set
of preferences pertaining to other candidates. It is never cut and dry
to like just one candidate since one candidate can not respond to all
the interests of voters. Indeed different candidates may represent
voters' different interests other than the most valued one. That becomes
more complex as voters would evaluate candidates according to how they
rank their own interests. 

Hence, a system giving the chance to voters to express their preference
for each candidate according to their ranking of interests need not to
have more than one round of votes in the general election and a primary
system like in the US would not be necessary neither. The problem as
presented above where the candidate that has the majority vote might not
be the true winner, is further reinforced if voters are allowed to state
their preferences for all candidates. Only with such a system, a society
would have a perfect representation of the collective choice.

Considering the same number of candidates A, B, C and D and the same
number of voters (20). Let's say the voters state their preference in
this fashion:

1)	A preferred over B, B preferred over C and C preferred over D = 9
2)	B preferred over C, C preferred over D and D preferred over A = 6
3)	C preferred over D, D preferred over B and B preferred over A = 3
4)	D preferred over A, A preferred over B and B preferred over C = 2

As it appears, A would triumph over the rest with its 9 votes
considering the logic that if A is preferred over B, B is preferred of C
and C is preferred over D therefore A receives a higher preference over
the rest. The same logic goes for the other three categories. 

However, to show that A is less preferred in a system where all voters
are not restricted to vote for only one candidate we need to tabulate
the votes of all voters for each candidate. We will see there will be
circumstances that the less favored candidate is in fact the most
favored one by all as a whole.

When comparing each candidate with each other we have this:

A with B : A = 11 (9 + 2) 	and B = 9 (6 +3)	A wins over B by a slim
A with C : A = 11 (9 + 2) 	and C = 9 (6 + 3)	A wins over C by a slim
A with D : A = 9 		and D = 11 (6 + 3 + 2)  D wins over A by a slim
B with C : B = 17 (9 + 6 + 2)   and C = 3		B wins over C by a large
B with D : B = 15 (9 + 6 ) 	and D = 5 ( 3 + 2)	B wins over D by a large
C with D : C = 18 (9 + 6 + 3)   and D = 2		C wins over D by a large

This is quite a paradox when A the would be winner in a normal system
where voters are restricted to vote only for one candidate is in fact
the weakest candidate in the field. D, which is beaten by a relative
large margin by B and C, beats A by a slim margin. The irony is that A
beats B and C by a slim a margin. It is to understand that a just
election process necessitates that all voters state their preferences,
as the result would truly reflect the choice of the voting population. 

This observation shows the minorities are the stronger candidates. Let's
keep this model in mind and try to run a simulation to test the strength
of Lafanmi's candidates. If anyone could conduct a survey among the
voting population to state their preferences for candidates they were
not allowed to vote for, it would make this very interesting.

With such a system in place, collective decision would be best taken
without resorting to skims endangering the collective well-being. In
Ayiti's case, this system would give a true picture of Aristide's
popularity (or his party's polarity). Given the fact that the masses are
given only one choice to make and Aristide's party seems to best
represent their interests, it is understandable that he and members of
his party have the best chance to win in elections.

Rather than asking Aristide not to run for presidency for the sake of
nobility as Antoine begs of him, implementing such a system would really
show where the people stand and whom should really be in control of
government. I truly think that he ought to run to show if he is really
up to par to change things in Ayiti. As state earlier, until he has his
chance to prove what he is capable of as the head of State, he will
always be a living myth. His opponents fail to understand this. To
disprove that he means good, he has to regain the presidency.

Ayiti has lived, lives and will live