The Global Standards and Democratic Consolidation in Korea : Evaluating the Priniciple of Simple Majority in the Presidential Elections

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Ahn, Byeonggil
Issue Date
서울대학교 국제학연구소
Journal of International and Area Studies, Vol.6 No.2, pp. 31-45
The paper discusses the voting rule of simple majority as a global standard and fundamental principle of democratic politics and evaluates the current Korean presidential-electoral system applying this principle. In a democratic political system, anybody with certain qualifications can become a political leader. Such qualifications can be represented in part by the condition that democratic political leaders must win at least a certain level of public support, usually measured through elections. For example, if there are two presidential candidates in a democratic society, the candidate getting more votes in an election acquires the position (the principle of simple majority).

The importance of electoral rules can be easily figured out when referring to Kenneth Arrows Impossibility Theorem and William H. Rikers claim on politics as a manipulation. It is well known that under different electoral rules electoral outcomes can be quite different even with the voters of the same preference. This implies that voters could elect a candidate not preferred by the majority. I contend that the current Korean presidential-electoral system is highly likely to allow voters to elect a candidate without the support of a simple majority because the system is based on the electoral rule of plurality. Therefore, I examine other electoral systems that could fix the problem, and suggest to adopt the run-off system, which appears to be the best alternative to replace the current plurality system.

By adopting the run-off system in the Korean presidential-electoral system, the following positive effects are expected: 1) weakening political regionalism, 2) promoting policy competition and power transition among major parties, 3) developing a two-party system in the long run, and ultimately, 4) increasing the political stability in Korean politics. This study shows that the run-off system is more democratic theoretically than the current plurality rule for electing presi?dent under the existing multi-party system. I argue that the benefits derived from adopting more democratic electoral rules will exceed the costs of implementing one more ballot in the presidential elections ultimately, which can be supported indirectly by the run-off practices of French and Russian presidential elections. We must notice that the typical practices of democracy are elections to choose public representatives. So we don"t have to be afraid of implementing one more ballot cast for democratic citizens. With the possible effects, Korean democratic consolidation would be enhanced to meet the global standards of democratic politics.
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Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원)Dept. of International Studies (국제학과)Journal of International and Area Studies (JIAS)Journal of International and Area Studies vol.06 (1999)
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