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My 350 on Donald Trump: Trumpustuous times

If the US elections had been preferential – electing both President and Vice – Trump would probably not now be President-elect.

It’s not just Trump. It’s the fact that he inherits an “elected dictatorship,” to use Lord Hailsham’s phrase. So Trump appoints whomsoever, family or friend, extremist, racist, misogynist, climate-change deniers! There can be no stronger argument for power-sharing.  Under majority rule, he ‘wins’ the election… and wins EVERYTHING. 

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Complex questions should not be reduced to dichotomies.  The collective will of an electorate cannot be determined via a ‘yes-or-no?’ ballot, just as the average age cannot be ascertained with a question like, “Are you young or old?”  With multi-option voting, however – “Are you in your twenties, thirties, whatever…?” – the outcome could be quite accurate. 

So parliament should take any non-urgent decision via a multi-option vote, at best to identify the option with the highest average preference. In a five-option Modified Borda Count (MBC) ballot, if an MP casts just one preference, his favourite gets 1 point; if another casts all five, her favourite gets 5 points, (her second choice 4, etc.). The option with the most points is the winner.  So protagonists will ask their supporters to cast full ballots, i.e., to recognise the validity of other options. So the MBC encourages cross-party dialogue. It is also more accurate: it is “the soundest method of identifying the [option which] is the most generally popular,” (Dummett 1997: 71). Ergo, it is more democratic.

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The MBC is also non-majoritarian. If it were adopted, there would be no further justification for majoritarianism. Instead, democracy would mean power-sharing. This could involve MBC decision-making; elections by a similar proportional methodology; and matrix vote elections in parliament of proportional, all-party, power-sharing governments of national unity.

If the US elections had been preferential – electing both President and Vice – Trump would probably not now be President-elect. Secondly, if power-sharing had replaced majority rule as the international norm, there would have been less cause for conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Rwanda, Ukraine and throughout the Middle East.



Dummett, M. 1997, Principles of Electoral Reform.  OUP, Oxford.

About the author

Peter Emerson, the child of an English Catholic mother and Irish Protestant father, is the director of the de Borda Institute, a Belfast-based NGO which specialises in voting systems for decision-making.  He has worked in several other conflict zones as well, in the Balkans, the Caucasus and East Africa.  His latest book is From Majority Rule to Inclusive Politics, (Springer, 2016).

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