29 September, 2020

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The Logic Of The Vote: Choosing Between The Buddha And Mara

By R  S Perinbanayagam

Prof. R.S.Perinbanayagam

Prof. R.S.Perinbanayagam

The presidential election of 2000 in the United States, as in Sri Lanka today, there were many candidates on the ballot but George W. Bush and Albert Gore were real contenders. And there was also the third candidate who made a lot of noise in the media too: Ralph Nader. In the final tally of votes for Bush and Gore, Bush edged out Gore by a small margin while Ralph Nader came third with a small number votes.

In this contest Bush was the conservative while Gore was the liberal one–broadly speaking– and Ralph Nader could be described as an ultra-liberal. Ralph Nader and Albert Gore had more in common than Bush and Nader and if push comes to shove those who voted for Nader would have preferred a Gore win rather than a Bush win. What did those who voted for Nader achieve in the end? By voting for Nader and wasting their vote they succeeded in electing Bush and should bear some responsibility for all the horrors that followed. They were so committed to the ultra-liberal ideology that Ralph Nader represented that they succeeded in electing a hawkish ultraconservative to office. The judgment of the Nader voters was deeply flawed They were no doubt moved by their deep disillusionment with the policies of the two major parties. Nevertheless, they did not fully appreciate the logic of the presidential electoral system and certainly lacked the powers of discernment to understand that small differences make a big differences in politics. In such a system not only does one vote for a candidate but also against  another. In the real world of politics a voter has to choose, not between good and evil or between God and the Devil or between the Buddha and Mara, or for that matter, between Rama and Ravana, but between two flawed candidates, between the lesser of the two evils. The electoral system for presidential elections is predicated on a binary logic. Those who voted for Ralph Nader also voted for Bush–perhaps unwittingly – and in a couple of states it made a difference and in Florida it made a decisive one. In effect then by choosing an ultraliberal they contributed to the defeat of the candidate with whom they shared at least some values and principles.

Mahinda maithripalaIn the Sri Lankan electoral system for choosing presidents the same binary logic operates. It appears that the ballot for the election contains  many names but the  real contenders are Rajapaksa and Srisena. At the time of voting the voters can choose to vote:

a) For one or the other.

b) For one of the minor party candidates

c) Spoil their vote

d) Abstain from voting.

Let us call those who may choose options the b c d the idealistic ones– or perhaps the naive ones. If the idealistic ones indeed choose one of the the three options they will  in fact be voting for one of the major contenders. If Rajapaksa squeaks a win with a small margin of votes the idealist would in fact have participated in electing him– even if that was the last thing they wanted. If on the other hand Srisena sqeeks a win, the idealists would have helped him win by withholding their votes for Rajapaksa even if, again, that was the last thing they wanted.

The electoral process as it stands now ultimately demands that the voters choose between the lesser of two evils. It does make a difference, even if it is only a marginal difference, for everyone in the resplendent isle, including various minorities, which evil wins in the end. In politics, until the revolution comes, it is the marginal difference that makes all the difference.  Perhaps it is best for the minor parties and their candidates, in the last minute, to keep quiet and not endorse anyone and allow the wisdom of the voters to choose the candidate on their own. They can do it.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    If Prof is right How unfortunate it is to a peasant like me to think that I have to select “lesser of two evils” to govern the country and people I love most and select “lesser of two evils” who make policy decision of the future of my children… What is the purpose of life of peasants like me in a country like that??
    I wish Prof is wrong…

  • 2
    1

    R S Perinbanayagam –

    RE:The Logic Of The Vote: Choosing Between The Buddha And Mara

    The Logic Of The Vote: Choosing Between The Buddha Democracy And Medamulana MaRa Cictatorship aka Mara.

    People need to use Common Sense and make the Choice. Mara needs to be exposed and the Common person educated..

    Story of the modern MaRa Hitler…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IKHJG5ztL68

    • 2
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      Prof. R.S.Perinbanayagam

      [Edited out]

      Maitrpala at the Wariyapola Rally.

      Exposing Medamulana MaRa.

  • 2
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    hmmm…..if there was a 4th candidate in the US 2000 election, an ultra-conservative one, I wonder how that would have played out. Maybe the Lankan candidates should be analyzed, quantified and qualified and people given recommendations on who to vote for.

  • 1
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    The writer analyses the effect of voting in US Presidential elections of 2000. The electors of the US Presidential elections, elected by the people, had only one vote for one person. The writer speaks of “squeaks to win” which is applicable in the US elections. In Sri Lankan Presidential elections there is a second choice and that is counted if no candidates obtains votes over 50% of the votes caste. One cannot talk of a squeak to win should a candidate obtains 50% of the votes casted + 1, because the addition of all the other votes will not outweigh the votes casted for the victorious candidate. Therefore in the Sri Lankan scenario there is a difference between option of voting for one of the minor parties as the first choice, provided that the second choice is for one of the major candidates and the options of spoiling the vote or abstaining from voting.

    Had the Sri Lankan system of Presidential elections were applicable for US elections of 2000, what would be the second choice of Nader voters, if that would required to be counted?

    The writer, in choosing the photograph where the two leading candidates hugging each other shows that in politics, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies and that photograph therefore speaks volumes.

    The writer takes the liberty of comparing the good and the bad with other analogies of a religious nature. I would have much preferred had the writer kept out any reference of that kind because some are incomparable to the good and the bad and can raise comments which are out of the main theme.

    I commend the writer for his analytical thinking and the research he has done to write this article.

    • 1
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      CT selects the pictures, and not the authors.

    • 0
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      Unless of course no major candidate gets over 50%……then the minor parties will surely play their part to boost up a winner.

      But isn’t this preferential voting system the very one the opposition wants to do away with?…..something to do with misrepresentation of the minority vote. Unless things change and Sirisena wants to campaign in his own right away from Ranil. Or Gota gets it into his head……

  • 2
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    Prof, in the Sri Lanka that boasts a 2500-year-old civilisation, the truth of the matter is that, these days, it always comes down to a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. Each with their own coterie of hangers-on with different and often conflicting agendas, Throw in, for good measure, the BBS joker in the pack who will stick like ringworm to the arse of whoever is elected.

    The main contenders for the prize paddikama on Jan 8th is one established Sinhala-Buddhist crook against another wannabe Sinhala-Buddhist crook. Ovey! Ovey! What’s a decent Sinhala-Buddhist to do? Worse still, the dilemma for our minority. What I say to my minority fellow citizens is choose the newer of the two evils. At least he will bring the minorities some hope whereas the present Regime will take a win as a sanction for Business as Usual.

    THIS time the Minorities, IF they come out in force and ALL vote ONE way WILL make the difference. Best of all, MR will be able to reflect on his noble assertion that ‘there are no minorities in Sri Lanka now’.

  • 4
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    If Tamils boycott like in 2005, MR will win.

    So all Tamil modayas, boycott the election.

  • 2
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    Mr.Perinpanayagam,

    I fully well endorse your analytic,pragmatic report based on comparative investigation of the ground situation.
    ‘To choose between two flawed candidates, between the lesser of the two evils’
    ‘The electoral process as it stands now ultimately demands that the voters choose between the lesser of the two evils.It does make a difference even if it is only a marginal difference’.
    In my opinion and as things are moving, chances for squeak to win cannot be totally denied.

    A personal question – are you the eldest son of Late Mr.S.H.Perinpanayagam, the Educationist from Manipay in Jaffna? If so my house and yours were situated side by side separated by only a separating wall and sharing a single well. A response awaited from you please.
    Thanks

    P.Rajeswaran

    • 0
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      RAJESWARAN

      Just in case Sid doesnt see your question, he is the son of the famous Handy Perinpanayagam.

    • 0
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      Mr. Rajeswaran:
      Good to hear from you and to read your comments.From the fact that you are reading CT,I surmise that you are living abroad now.All the best to you.
      Perinbanayagam,former neighbor and friend

  • 2
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    Mr R S Perinbanayagam

    Sri Lanka is Not USA.

    {But 7-11,and Petrol shed Jarapassa Clan suddenly got Vilas in California, How????? ]

    That time They Followed Mahinda and Pirapaharan.
    And did a great Mistake,

    Sinhalese and Tamizars got a lesson, that may Not forgotten for generations.

    Are you telling them to do the Same mistake Again.
    Once is enough.

    LIVE OR PERISH??????. Select ONE OF THEM.

    Buddha Follower = Honourable Mr Maithripala Sirisena.

    Or

    Maraya Follower = Ma Ra Dhaja Jarapassa.

  • 0
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    Dear Sid

    It is good to see you taking an interest in what happens here despite living so far away for so many years. Thank you for adding your gentle voice to advocate choosing between the two main candidates which I assume you meant to say when writing “between the lesser of two evils”.

    Most of the other “minor’ candidates are not serious contenders for the post but put up to add to the number of polling observers etc in what will already be crowded halls while the count goes on. Also, I seem to recall that the Buddhist monks who is contesting, did so at a previous election (presidential?) and then gave all his votes to Mahinda.

    Warm greetings, Sid, from both of us
    Manel

  • 0
    1

    This is a realy dumb article.The Sinhalese by thier on will elected MR and many Tamils on thier own will supported Praba – do you want us to rely on thier wisdom? Pls take your brian out of that deep freezer thaw it and get it to work.If you can get it to work at 2% of its operational capacity it will tell you whom to vote for but it will not for the Racust mob that supports MR.

    So please put your brsin back into that freezer.

  • 0
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    Mr kirri yakka:
    I write to commend your capacity to read between the lines and praise you for your subtle analysis of the situation.

    • 1
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      Did not mean to offend you Sir. Just that we belong to a peasant communal society ridden with conflict happy to support communal politics. Democracy was not meant for peasants and peasant leaders vying for their votes along communal lines – which is our reality. In this context I disagree with your proposition to let them vote as they please. Enlightened political leadership is about directing the direction in way that is beneficial and I think we expect our politicians to be capable of that. Not all but some. So we need to back the rare animals.

  • 1
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    The Florida judges who decided to gift the election to Bush is conveniently left out, and the greatest of all evils was let loose on the world. It is still with us.

  • 0
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    I would argue that all Tamils from North East, Upcountry and Muslims should consider their 100% votes to Maithiri irrespective of what the opposition offers in this election. It is not bargaining election. It is about change from Mahinda to someone else for 100 days only. There will be another election very soon. we can set that election as a bargaining election. We have given Mahinda enough time to bring peace and equality. We should tell him that you missed your chance and we are now going to see what other group can do. We made a mistake in 2005. We made a mistake in 2010 again. No calm in making another mistake by voting Maithri.

  • 0
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    Mr.Perinpanayagam,

    It is really a treat to get the response from you and that too with the same old cordial feeling.
    I never miss reading CT and I have read two of your articles earlier too.
    I am now living with my daughter in Fremont,CA
    Best wishes
    Rajeswaran

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