Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The Problem with Protest Votes

More and more people seem to be becoming ever more disillusioned with political parties. They seem to trust politicians less and less which is hardly surprising looking at the ever increasing number of broken promises and scandals such as the expenses farago and the Chris Huhne fiasco. But is a protest vote the answer or is abstention the better option? Personally I prefer spoiling the ballot paper, at least you show that you have bothered to turn up and spoilt ballot papers are counted. Not turning up could be seen as not caring or being just too lazy.

In the run up to the elections tomorrow I have seriously pondered abstention but have been told, by several people, that I have a duty to vote, that people fought wars for my right to vote. No they didn't. They fought to protect our national interest, to defend us from invaders and yes, to save our democracy. But that democracy includes the right to vote, it does not mean I have to vote. True democracy means that you have choice. I have the right to stand for election, but choose not to. I have the right do lots of things but choose not too. It is not democratic to merely go into a polling booth and vote for a person or party you do not support just because it is the lesser of several evils, especially because you are forced to or expected to. If I have no candidate I feel able to vote for why vote just for the sake of it?

If we choose not to vote for a mainstream candidate why vote for a fringe/protest candidate we don't know or necessarily agree with? The risk of electing a nutter is far too great. This last fortnight we have seen a stream of nutty candidates exposed, mainly UKIP candidates, but the leader of the Green Party was on the BBC last week and struck me as being seriously unhinged. Indeed I have seen Green Party and UKIP activists at close quarters and the prospect of either running my city or county council is quite terrifying. I prefer not to even contemplate either party actually forming a government.

The problem with minor parties is that they tend to attract either single interest eccentrics, or serious obsessives. Numerous fringe candidates have been exposed this last fortnight and been disowned by their party, mostly too late to be removed  from ballot papers, meaning there is a danger that a disowned fruitcake could still be elected. But if a handful of fruitcakes have been exposed standing for fringe parties, out of several thousand candidates in total, how many loonies have not been outed and could be elected? UKIP have accepted they have not vetted their candidates. Is potentially inflicting a loony on the electorate a sensible form of protest? Is it even true democracy? I don't think so.

Unless you have spent a relatively short amount of time doing a little research I would suggest a protest vote is far more dangerous than abstention or spoiling your ballot paper. Then again, if you can't be bothered spending a few hours researching the people who may spend the next five years representing you, then maybe you get what you deserve.

1 comment:

Daz Pearce said...

Sorry to bang the drum on this again, but NOTA on ballot papers is long overdue. If it wins then keep the seat empty, simples...

Totally agreed on the Green Party's rather Cambodian leader. She pulled off the difficult trick of making Lucas look moderate...