Is a Two-Round Voting System Necessary?

By Dioputra Ilham | 20 Feb 2017
Political | 5 Participant(s) | 6 Response(s) | 1090 Views

This week we witnessed the unfolding of arguably the most anticipated election this voting season. On February 15th, millions of Jakartans voted for their future 2019/2024 leader, and the margin was slim. Despite popular dissent, current governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was able to secure the majority of votes with 43.05 percent. Anies Baswedan followed shortly with 40.14 percent and Agus Yudhoyono fell behind with 16.78 percent. As many of Ahok’s supporters exhale a sigh of relief with their candidate leading the elections, the fight has not yet been won.


Jakarta’s voting laws are in accordance with Law No. 29 Year 2007 (UU No. 29 Tahun 2007) regarding the provincial government of the Special Capital Region of Jakarta. In article 11 of the legislation, it states that:

  1. Gubernatorial and deputy gubernatorial candidates who successfully obtain 50% of votes will be appointed governor and deputy governor-elect.

  2. In the event that neither candidates obtain 50% of the vote, the election will continue onto a second round between the two candidates with the most votes.

With the results of Wednesday’s elections, albeit awaiting the official results from Jakarta’s General Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum), it is highly likely that Jakarta’s 2017 gubernatorial election will continue onto its next round in which Ahok and Anies Baswedan will go head to head, competing for the favour of Jakarta residents. While this system, namely a two-round voting system, has been established and maintained for nearly a decade, many are still questioning its relevance. What are the costs and benefits of a two-round voting system? Why should Jakarta implement it? Is it necessary?


These questions will be answered after we consider the nature of a two-round voting. A two-round voting system is an electoral system in which an election is conducted in two rounds in the event that there are more than two running candidates. In the first round, a voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate. If neither candidates successfully obtain a certain amount of required votes, in Jakarta being 50 percent, a second round will be conducted by only giving the option to choose between two of the candidates who obtained the most votes during the previous round. This system was formulated to ensure that a winning candidate will be chosen with the support of an absolute majority of voters. Under a first-past-the-post voting system, the candidate with the most votes will win even if they do not have the support of an absolute majority of votes. The two-round voting system attempts to overcome this issue by only allowing two candidates in the second round so that once must receive an absolute majority of votes.


So how is this system advantageous? The merits of a two-round voting system are that it sustains the idea of representation within democracy, or to some extent, the illusion of representation. It also helps sustain a constant degree of consent within each proceedings, as it forces citizens to go through another recognition process of a more limited selection of candidates should the first round fail to deliver satisfactory requirement. This will in turn familiarise voters to the ideas and visions of the chosen candidate. This version of consent is structurally legal and tends to cause less dissent and discontent amongst the people.


One main critique of the two-round voting system stems from budgetary expenditure which makes this system a pure liability. For some countries, the resources needed for a two-rounded process are quite taxing. Some countries would rather use a more development-centric budgeting policy. Candidates will also need to exert more funds for a second campaign process. There is also the issue of time. An additional round shall prolong the duration of the overall process. This will increase opportunity cost and decrease effective policymaking time. Another problem is also located in the slow process of transition that could halt the operation of undergoing political programs.

How does this translate to Jakarta’s current condition? With its current resources, Indonesia seems to be better off with a more simple, cost efficient system. This way, the government will be able allocate more resources towards proposed development programs. However, governance will be difficult to conduct effectively if faced with significant dissent and resistance. Should Jakarta implement a voting system that is able to cut costs and is less time-consuming, or should democracy and representation still stand as the top priority of governance?