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System of negative and positive votes in the Czech Republic could increase participation

Prague, 11.10.2014 21:23, (ROMEA)
Karel Janeček, the founder of the Foundation against Corruption, (Nadační fond proti korupci - NFPK) at a
Karel Janeček, the founder of the Foundation against Corruption, (Nadační fond proti korupci - NFPK) at a "happening" held by critics and opponents of former Czech President Václav Klaus in Prague, 2013. (Photo: David Sedlecký)

Karel Janeček, the founder of the Foundation against Corruption (Nadačního fondu proti korupci - NFPK), told the press on Thursday that the NGO is performing a survey to test a new voting system called Democracy 2.1 during the ongoing local and Senate elections. The system would consist of people directly casting ballots for two candidates for mayor or senator instead of just one.

Voters would be able to give one of the two candidates a negative vote - in other words, to express disagreement with that candidate's election. Janeček said the new system would be more fair than the current one, as it would facilitate the selection of candidates who are more acceptable to a majority of voters and force parties to nominate better candidates.  

The system would also supposedly eliminate representatives of extremist parties, increase voter participation, and prevent vote-splitting. Compared to the existing voting system, people without a clear favorite among the candidates would not have to choose between the "lesser of two evils".  

Janeček says voters who take advantage of being able to cast two positive votes would have a higher probability that one of their candidates would win office. "The person who wins will be the first or second possible choice for most people," he said.  

There is no concern in the proposed system that the winner would be the candidate whom people have the least objection to or the one left over on a ticket, because the new system would force the parties to nominate significantly high-quality candidates. The NGO survey will take the form of exit polls.  

The Market Vision agency will conduct the survey among 7 500 voters. They will ask them about directly voting mayors in 15 municipalities including Boží Dar, Chýně, Olomouc, Prague, Tábor and Teplice.    

Voters will be asked about their voting for senators in 12 municipalities or municipal departments, such as Brno, Karviná, Ostrava, Prague 1, Prague 5, Přerov and Zlín. The results of the survey will be available by 18 October at the latest on the project's website.  

The website currently features the results of a survey testing the new system during last year's elections to the lower house. During the survey, voters were able to cast as many as two negative votes and four positive votes for candidates in selected precincts.

Voters were also able to cast a vote across party lines. The option to vote for at least two candidats was taken advantage of by more than 80 % of the 2 533 voters surveyed, while more than 60 % made us of a negative vote.

Had such a system been in place during those elections, Janeček says it would have strengthened the outcome for the two strongest parties, thereby making it easier to form a majority government. At the same time it would not have harmed the smaller democratic parties, who would have also been able to win more votes, to the detriment of extremist groups.

Janeček wants to raise support among Czech voters for introducing the system, as well as in the international arena. He would consider it ideal if the next elections to the Czech lower house would run on the new system. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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