Experts find casting blank ballots unlikely to negatively affect party ratings

A National Electoral Committee member carrying the ballot box at the 2016 presidential elections in the Riigikogu. (Siim Lõvi/ERR)
By Aleksander Krjukov
9/23/2016 2:12 PM
Category: News

While the failure of the electoral college to elect a president could bring with it a potential crisis of constitutional order, experts believe that political party ratings would not suffer very much as a result, although general distrust of politicians would grow.

University of Tartu political scientist Vello Pettai found that it would be impossible to know for sure who or which party's members submitted blank ballots as voting occurs by secret ballot.

"Statesmanlike behavior would be not participating in the vote, in which case the required majority would still be met," explained Pettai. "The law states that, 'The candidate in favor of whom votes a majority of the members of the electoral body participating in the voting shall be considered elected.' There are two ways in which not to participate in voting. One is that the member of the electoral college does not take their ballot out at all during the second round. This is unlikely, however, as then it would be possible to identify those who did not participate. A much simpler method would be that the the memeber takes out their ballot, but does not head in the direction of the voting booth or ballot box at all and instead just walks around with the ballot in their pocket until voting has ended."

Pettai found that if one did not like the final two candidates, they should abstain from voting, not send all of Estonia into a constitutional crisis by spoiling ballots. "Furthermore, this may not result in anything better for those who do this, as it is just as unpredictable who will be nominated in the Riigikogu or once again in the electoral college," he added.

Number of people without party preferences would grow

Emori research manager Aivar Voog believed that political party ratings would not be particularly effected by such a stunt, however it would be a blow to politicians' general trustworthiness.

"It may temporarily cause some degree of disappointment," said Voog, "However it will not have any impact on a specific political party. It would also depend on how the process continued as well — would a quick solution of some sort be found in the Riigikogu or would it come back to the electoral college once more after that? It depends on how long this process would take and how the media covers it."

In Vool's opinion, the number of people without any party preferences may grow in such a situation.

Electoral college members are responsible

Political observer Agu Uudelepp told ERR that the chances of political parties submitting blank ballots will be greater than ever before on Saturday — and that goes for all political parties involved.

Uudelepp noted that blank ballots work if someone's potential supporters do not vote. "If someone's staunch pponents do not vote, but there are enough backers, then the president will still be elected," explained the political observer.

That being said, however, Uudelepp found that the members of the electoral college would still feel responsible and will not employ the use of blank ballots on Saturday, even if their first choice of candidate does not make it into the second round.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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