Monday, October 29, 2012
Would a Second Round Help in Future Mexican Elections?
By Allan Wall
presidential election was won by Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional).
Peña Nieto is scheduled to take office on December 1st.
everybody did not recognize Peña Nieto's triumph, chief among them runner-up candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
(often referred to as AMLO), who ran under the banners of three leftist parties.
Granted, no system is going to make everybody happy. However, Mexican lawmakers might consider changing Mexico's
electoral system to allow a second round of voting, as some other countries do. Such a system might decrease the number
of politicians who contest future elections.
Given the current political
alignment of the Mexican electorate, it's unlikely that any candidate wins a majority. Indeed, it is not necessary
for a candidate to win a majority, but only a plurality (that is, have more votes than any other candidate).
In the United States, the presidential election is decided by an electoral system in which
each state has a certain quantity of votes. In the UK and Canada, the prime minister is the leader of the party that
wins in parliament.
In Mexico neither a U.S.-style electoral college
nor a parliamentary system is operative. The election is determined by a plurality of votes.
In this year's election, Peña Nieto received 38.21% of the vote, while AMLO was the runner-up with 31.59%
of the vote. That was a difference of only 3, 309,765 votes out of a total of about 50 million votes cast.
Six year ago the 2006 election was even closer. In that election AMLO was also the
runner-up, after his defeat by Felipe Calderon, the current president, by a quarter of a million votes out of 41 million votes.
That's very close. Percentage-wise, Calderon had 35.88% of the vote vs. Lopez Obrador with 35.31%.
Such a close vote is bound to be contested, regardless of the merits of the electoral system.
So a two-round system might be of benefit to Mexico, and this has been
How does it work? In the first round, if no candidate
receives a majority (unlikely in Mexico) the top two vote-getters are selected. And in the second round they are the only
France utilizes a two-round electoral system, and coincidentally
France had an election this year.
The first round was held in France
on April 22nd. There were ten candidates running and no candidate received a majority. The two winners were incumbent
Nicolas Sarkozy and challenger Francois Hollande.
The second round was
held on May 6th. In that round Hollande won with 51.63% of the vote, and took office May 15th.
In Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, the two-round presidential election system is used in Guatemala, Costa
Rica, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
If the two-round system had been in effect in Mexico for the 2012 election, Peña Nieto and AMLO would have
been the winners of the first round, and would have gone on to oppose each other in the second round with no other candidates.
The voters would have had to choose between the two.
Therefore, the winner
would have received a majority of the vote.
Of course, you have to figure
out what to do about discounted votes -- spoiled ballots and write-in protest votes. Hopefully that wouldn't be
a problem in Mexico. In this year's election, out of over 50 million votes cast, only about one and a quarter million
were in that category. Still, you'd have to have a rule about that.
The advantage of a second round would be that the electorate would have only two candidates to consider, the winning
candidate would receive a majority of the votes cast, and thus enjoy greater legitimacy.
Disadvantages include the expense involved. It would simply cost more money.
But it wouldn't have to be an enormous amount of money. For one thing, there's no reason to wait
a long time for the second round, after all, the public already knows the candidates. As in France, they could have
the second round just two weeks later.
Besides the expense, there's
a danger in having elections last too long. After a certain point people just get burned out.
But a two-round Mexican election could be held using the same amount of time as this year's electoral process.
You could just cut two weeks off the length of the election and use it for the second round.
And when it's all over, you have a winner with a majority.
effect a second round would have is on dyed-in-the-wool adherents of political parties that lose the first round. Let's
use this year's election as an example, supposing the two-round system were in effect. If the PRI and the PRD
are running candidates in the second round, that forces staunch PANistas to decide between a PRI or PRD candidate, or, if
they can't stand to do that, to simply sit out the second round. But it's their choice.
At the end, you have a winner with a majority.
After the new
president takes office (the Congress is already in session) it's something they might consider.
Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years. His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info/.