French elections: Here’s why two-round electoral system is advantageous

The French presidential elections will take place through the two-round electoral system, on April 23 and May 7.

Written by Nandini Rathi | New Delhi | Updated: April 21, 2017 3:51:07 pm
france electoral system, two-round system france, france second ballot, two round electoral system, french election 2017, france elections, France, presidential elections, April 23 France, France president 2017, French elections, Marine Le Pen, france election candidates, Emmanuel Macron, Indian express news, France news, France election news Thousand of people gather on Republique square in Paris, Saturday, March 18, 2017 as supporters of hard-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon march through the French capital. The first French presidential ballot will take place on April 23 and the two top candidates go into a runoff on May 7. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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.

FILE PHOTO: A combination picture shows five candidates for the French 2017 presidential election, from L-R, Francois Fillon, the Republicans political party candidate, Benoit Hamon, French Socialist party candidate, Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader, Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche ! (Onwards !), Jean-Luc Melenchon, candidate of the French far-left Parti de Gauche, in Paris, France. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

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.

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