Friday, June 29, 2007

two party democracies

In Sri Lanka, despite the inroads made by the JVP and other minor parties from time to time, the country's parliamentary and presidential democracy is essentially a two party system. The PR system has permitted parties on the fringes to get into the mainstream and also to make pronouncements in public that far exceed their underlying following.

Therefore only the UNP or the SLFP will be in power, with little to no chance of other parties becoming larger than these two. It is inevitable that in a system of proportional representation, minor parties can have a balance of power that is far in excess of their share of the vote. This is a reality everywhere. Germany is a classic example of this in action in the developed countries.

In my village, I would hazard a guess to say that 70% of the electorate will not change their voting pattern no matter what happens and belong to the two major parties. They are party loyalists, who are known to everyone in the village. They vote the same way no matter who is contesting. The rest is the floating vote on whom the outcome of the election hangs.

We may pontificate on the future of this party or that, but subject to the PR issues addressed above, there is little they can do to upset the status-quo. An astute politician should therefore take aim at this floating vote and appeal to them. It is therefore important to know who these people are. Usually the first time voter falls into this bracket. Hence the absurd proposition of promising jobs that don't exist to these people, totally hoodwinking them with false promises. Our education system does not equip the youth to think or reason, so they believe what they are told and vote accordingly.

The sophistication of the party and politician to impress and extract this floating vote determines the winner. ( I am of course assuming that each elector is not given a Rs1000/- and instructed who to vote for- that's called buying the vote as happens frequently)

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