May 21, 2007
I’m Elected, Tails You Lose
elections are not foreign to Americans. Yet with no disrespect to the
troublesome pregnant chads, you realize when you look at what has
happened in some other countries that it could be a lot worse. Over the
course of the past three months, elections in the Philippines spurred
violence that left dozens dead.
Over 87,000 Filipino
candidates competed for 18,000 positions, but one race caught the eye of
the international community. Two men competing for council seats in
Bontoc tied and resolved the conflict by . . . flipping a coin.
districts with rolls of quarters would be considerably cheaper than
upholding an intricate judicial system, this method is questionable and
disturbing. Aside from the absurdity of lethal violence leading to
peaceful and lighthearted election resolution, the willingness of both
contenders to settle on the outcome brings forth the question: “Should
it really be that easy?”
systems put in place to count and recount and recount votes often end in
an impasse, costing millions and leaving constituents in an insecure
position. Perhaps that is what drove the Philippine election officials
who deemed the settlement “refreshing” and encouraged others to see “the
beauty of this kind of peaceful resolution.”
In reality, it is
probably more of a sigh of relief than actual support. It is a useful
example to promote as a model for a non-violent electoral process. Yet
in the end, it is harmful to the country’s fairly new democratic system.
It is a Band-Aid for the deep wounds from which the violence originates.
The country’s refusal to address those wounds directly will likely
exacerbate the problem.
hailed approach condones disenfranchisement of the voters. The two
candidates chose the method in which the winner emerged without
consulting their constituents. When the most crucial part of the race
came, the voters were removed from the process.
As much of a pain as
it may be to be subject to intricate election laws, this type of system
guarantees a systematic means of resolution instead of relying on
arbitrary, spur of the moment ideas of candidates in the heat of the
moment. The inconvenience is outweighed by the sense of security that
comes with a clear-cut and organized method of resolving conflicts.
Countries like the
Philippines risk much by cutting corners. While it is undeniable that
ensuring safe and fear-free elections is a key responsibility of the
government, even one instance of leniency may lead to a slippery slope.
In a country the
size of the Philippines, holding elections for 18,000 positions at the
same time is playing with fire, literally and proverbially. While the
people may momentarily welcome such a simple resolution to what could
have been a serious conflict, eventually they will start questioning the
government’s willingness to appease.
The lack of trust in
key democratic institutions and practices eventually leads to the loss
of legitimacy by the system of governing. Some point to the fact that
the coin toss was legally permissible and thus the two candidates did
nothing wrong choosing this method. Still, that does not explain why
after months of campaigning the race goes to the one who called heads.
© 2007 North Star
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