This is a difficult subject. People always say the minority has not to be overruled by the majority when it comes to decisions and the execution of these decisions. But this is just too simple. Right now I have this feeling that the minority with their opinions are starting to overrule the debate. Ofcourse we have to guarantee that people are free to believe what they want or may say what they want. But it’s impossible to govern a country when no decisions are taken. And for that reason we need good legislation to save us from bad decisions and people who want to manage the country with bad intentions. But before I continue I want to seperate two things.
There are ‘technical’ minority and marjority issues and there are issues coloured by for example gender and religion.
I will talk now about the ‘technical’ majority and minority issues. Ofcourse there are many ways in which decisions can be taken in a democratic environment. I narrow it down to 4 common types:
1. Normal majority of votes
2. Absolute majority of votes
3. Weighted majority
4. An extra weighted majority for far-reaching decisions
1. Normal majority of votes
The majority is 50% of the votes plus 1. But it doesn’t take in account the people who e.g. did not vote or neutral voters. I would never recommand this for far-reaching decisions. As I will also explain at point 2. You should think this is a no go for decisionmakers. But this is actually almost always the fundament of a referendum!!!! As a simple calculation: If there are 100 voters and f.i. 60(%) of them will vote, the decision is taken by half of 60(%) plus 1. So actually only 31(%) have deceided and not 51(%) of the hunderd as is often suggested. So in my opinion in this case ‘the people have not spoken’. Ofcourse we can say all the people should have voted. And you know I think they should. And it’s a must when there are elections. But asking people to vote on all these subjects in referenda, and to make time to go and vote and understand what the issue really is about, is just too much to ask.
2. Absolute Marjority of votes
The difference with point 1 is, that it’s also 50% plus 1. But it takes in account people who abstain from voting, neutral voters and – if so determined – the absent voters, to determine whether half of the votes have been reached. This is sometimes used in large companies with shareholders for important decisions. This is better than option 1 but I won’t recommand this either. And it’s unenforceable at country level.
I tell you why I don’t recommand options 1 and 2 unless it’s used for decions which are not far reaching. Whether you deceide to go on holiday (sailing or this resort) it’s asking for half of the people to sulk or to feel confused and neglected. It devides the community. Also as a manager it’s important to create extra time to improve consensus for major changes like e.g. a reorganization. Because without enough consensus people are just silently going to sabotage or just not going to carry out the decisions made and it will not benefit the atmosphere between the colleagues either. The more people approve of the changes suggested, the better. This is on microlevel but on macro level the same happens in society. Ofcourse it’s impossible to please everybody but all the same, I would never recommend this option. There simply is not enough support. So you understand that I really think it’s not okay when decisionmakers deceide to ask the people by referendum!!! to leave the European Union (Brexit) and that with a normal majority of votes!! Only 51,9% were positive to leave. This is – in my opininion – not a solid basis.
3. Weighted majority
This means in general that more votes are necessary before a decision is taken. Often is chosen for 2/3 of the votes but it can also be a form of step by step decisionmaking with several clauses to assure a decision will be taken with more support of the people or members. This is much better. Ofcourse there is a balance. Decisions can never be taken quickly when many people are involved. So 80 or 90% would make the country unmanageable. But I want to hold a plea for 2/3 at least for major decisions. Especially because non-voters are in general not taken in account.
4. An extra weighted majority
In Holland this is f.i. for changing the Constitution. It’s an extra secured procedure where the Parliament has to take a desicion twice. We call it the first and second reading. This is because our Constitution is the fundament of our society and contains the most important principles and assumptions/rules of our nation.
There are 7 steps which have to be taken to change any aspect of the constitution:
1. The Government or 1 of the members of the Parliament (2nd Chambre) submit an amendment.
2. The Second and First Chambre (I wrote about these ‘Chambres’ before in my blog about Elections, my song Protect our Freedom, Spring
and my song Just Lazy) will vote about this with a normal majority.
3. The 2nd Chambre is being dissolved and there will be new elections. By this way the people/voters can have their say
about the proposed changes.
4. In the new 2nd Chambre this amendment will be treated again.
5. The Second and First Chambre have to agree with this proposal with at least 2/3 of the votes.
6. The new amendment will be ratified (administrative part).
7. The new amendment is published in a special State magazine “het Staatsblad” and will come into force of law.
What I also want to emphasize is that whatever votingsystem is used, it’s not only important to be a good looser but also to be a good winner!! An important condition to get more support for the measures taken.
It’s not only a difficult subject but also difficult to translate. So I sincerely apologise for the mistakes I probably made in my English…
Till next time,