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On April 23, French voters will hit the polling booths, followed by a revisit on May 7 to choose their new president. The French president, like the American president, is invested with a lot of powers and is appointed directly by the people. Electoral systems are required in democracies to convert direct votes into results. The French uses the Two-round system (TRS), sometimes also known as Second Ballot, to choose who moves into the Elysee Palace.
Currently, polls indicate that four candidates have been running close at one another’s heels, with the far-right firebrand, Marine Le Pen and the independent centrist, Emmanuel Macron in the relative leads. Whereby this system, in the absence of a candidate winning an absolute majority (more than 50 per cent, in case of France) in the first round on April 23, the top two finishers of the first round compete in the second run off elections on May 7 – in which the winner would be decided by the majority.
Cost-wise and logistically, the two-round system is more taxing and laborious, Ace Electoral Network points out. The electoral administration must run a second election, shortly after organising the first, which significantly increases the cost of the election process and the time elapsed between voting and declaration of result. The latter can sometimes result in instability and uncertainty, especially in countries with deeply divided societies. The voters also have to make effort to cast their vote twice separately, due to which sometimes there can be a sharp decline from fatigue in the voter turnaround for the second round.
However, TRS as a voting system is advantageous because:
* First vote from the heart, and then vote from the head: Unless a pre-specified high majority is achieved by one candidate, the voters get a second chance to vote for their chosen candidate or to even change their mind between the first and the second rounds. In the second round, they have the opportunity to closely consider the two candidates with demonstrated winning potential, especially if they had supported a third party during the first round.
* Prevent vote splitting: The TRS also checks vote-split situations. Ace electoral network defines it as “the common situation in many plurality/majority systems where two similar parties or candidates split their combined vote between them, thus allowing a less popular candidate to win the seat.”
Besides presidential, TRS is also used in France’s legislative and departmental elections. TRS is also used by a long list of other countries including most Latin American countries, several Francophone and other African countries and post-Soviet bloc central Asian countries. Elsewhere in Europe, Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Portugal and Romania are a few of the countries using this system.