Saturday, February 24, 2018

Run-off amendment sets stage for confusion

 The controversial re-run/run-off amendment is mathematically misleading and problematic. 

Dr Mahabir proposed that a third-placed candidate in an election who gains 25 per cent of the votes and who is within a margin of not less than five percentage points of the second-placed candidate, also be allowed to contest the run-off election.

There is the possibility that the second- and third-placed candidates in an election may both fail to get 25 per cent. Let’s say there are five candidates in an election and the person polling the highest gets 49 per cent of the votes, the second 23 per cent, the third 21 per cent, the fourth three per cent, and the fifth two per cent, totalling ten per cent of the persons who voted. Both the second-placed candidate and the third-placed candidate have not received the prerequisite 25 per cent and the winner has not crossed the 50 per cent threshold. So can there still be a run-off? 

The legislation is silent on this scenario. If the run-off is allowed to take place with only the second-placed person that received less than 25 per cent of the votes cast, then it makes a mockery of the amendment, which speaks to the 25 per cent threshold to show that the third-placed candidate has the potential to win, according to the pseudo logic. In this scenario, a second-placed candidate with 23 per cent is allowed in a run-off while a third-placed candidate in another constituency obtaining, say, 24 per cent, can possibly be denied, having not achieved the 25 per cent threshold.

The new process is no longer a run-off, but more of a re-run of the election, under different rules. First, the threshold of more than 50 per cent to win in the second round is no longer valid. In addition the 25 per cent threshold for the third-placed contender may also be invalid if both the second-placed candidate falls below 25 per cent and the winner below 50 per cent.

From both a mathematical and process perspective the run-off as amended poses more difficulty and confusion than the initial proposal. 

I am therefore recommending that this amendment be revisited during the next sitting of Parliament.

Adrian Clarke