Multi-cornered contests not necessarily healthy – Analyst

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KOTA KINABALU – Multi-cornered contests in elections are not necessarily a good thing because the best candidate in the field may not win, said political analyst Dr Romzi Ationg.

He said when there are too many candidates, vote splitting could occur and a less worthy contestant could end up winning.

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“People know such an environment is unhealthy, even if they cannot agree on the root cause,” said Romzi, a political researcher at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

He said this when asked to comment on the 16th Sabah state election, which sees 447 candidates including 56 independents vying for the 73 seats at stake, giving an average of six candidates per constituency.

He said vote splitting could also have other consequences like dividing and polarising an electorate, leaving some bitter, others apathetic, and everyone cynical.
He said too many candidates vying for one particular seat could leave both voters and candidates in a dilemma.

The candidates could end up thinking whether they had made the right move to contest after seeing such a large field.

Voters on the other hand will be wondering whom to vote for, whether it is their favourite candidate or a candidate who is popular, he added.

“Then again, maybe an ‘extremist’ can benefit from the splitting of votes between two ‘moderate’ candidates,” he said.

Romzi said there are two kinds of vote splitting – primary (structural) and secondary (strategic).

“Structural vote splitting occurs because voters cannot express the support they feel for a candidate.

“Strategic vote splitting occurs when voters choose to express less support than they feel for a candidate,” he said.

Two major alliances – Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and Warisan Plus – and eight parties are contesting in the 16th Sabah state election, polling for which is tomorrow.

All the 73 seats are seeing multi-cornered fights, with Bengkoka recording the highest number of 11 candidates.

— BERNAMA