Friday, 17 November 2000

Precedents for Presidents

The Malta Independent

Precedents for Presidents

The` US electoral system was designed to be fair not perfect. When the difference between the contestants for the highest political post in the world comes down to a few hundred posts out of the one hundred million` cast,` than the imperfections become glaring and unacceptable.

How the country that` is leading technological advancements in its many facets can allow the basis of its democracy to be subjected to so many imperfections is a question which still` begs` an answer.

Whilst the debate is still focussed on the regularity and integrity of the Florida vote, the issue is much bigger than Florida.` The only `lucky solution` which could extract the US from this delicate and dangerous situation would be if the mail votes and the recounts` would gives a victory in the Florida State to Gore.` This would give Gore the electoral college majority to couple it with the popular vote majority and become the uncontested legal and legitimate 43rd President of the United States. All other alternatives are fraught with dangerous precedents for the eventual President.

If Gore legally contests the Florida vote, the legal wrangle will definitely spread into other States where the majority is thin. The Courts are generally loathe to interfere with the outcome of the electoral vote and even if they do it is doubtful that the solution would be a re-vote of the particular county or state. The principle of a federal election is for the whole federal state to vote in one shot over a compressed time period` where everyone votes without knowing the voting preferences of other electors so that the individual`s vote is not influenced by the decision of others.

If on the other hand the Florida vote is confirmed and Bush becomes the legal president of the United States with a minority of the popular vote his moral authority to hold the title of the most important political post in the world would be under challenge.

The President of the United States is chosen by American citizens but it influences all else beyond America`s shores. Whilst American citizens seem` willing to accept as their President a person elected in accordance with the imperfections of their constitution but against the majority will of the federal electorate, it is doubtful if the citizens of the world would adopt the same reasoning.

For the rest of the world, it is not important who won the Florida State or who won the State of Oregon. What is important is that the person who symbolises the most democratic society in the world effectively carries the credentials of having passed the litmus test of democracy ` that of carrying the majority support of the federal electorate.

An American President lacking this moral authority could be a threat world prosperity and world peace as America still pretends to behave as the world`s` policeman defending democracy which would be defied on its own home turf.

Unless this matter is determined by a recount of the Florida state, including the mailed votes, which gives a constitutional victory to Gore,` a specifically devised solution to a very specific set of circumstances is called for. This needs the candidates themselves to raise above their own interest and authorise the Congress to anoint an acting president until a new presidential election could be recalled` next year with the electorate being requested to choose simply between Bush and Gore. And the person best qualified for the acting post is the present incumbent who has guided America through the longest prosperous and` stable period giving it` the unquestionable title as the economic and technological leader of the world.

Alfred Mifsud

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