For voices to count, voting should be compulsory

Mr Donald Trump winning the United States presidential election might come as a shock to many people, but a closer look at the results might reveal a key dysfunctional aspect of Western democracy: the right to not vote ("Trump beats the odds in shock win"; Thursday).

Americans are allowed to not vote in their elections. In this election, only 55.6 per cent of all eligible voters showed up at the ballot box.

Slightly less than half of that 55.6 per cent voted for Mr Trump. That means Mr Trump became the president with only about 25 per cent of the American population voting for him.

Brexit, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union, occurred under similar circumstances.

Voter turnout was 72.2 per cent, and 51.9 per cent of those who voted wanted to leave the EU, meaning only 37.5 per cent of the British population voted to leave the bloc.

There are increasing instances where important decisions are made via voting, and the winning side often does not win with more than half of the whole population's vote.

There are increasing instances where important decisions are made via voting, and the winning side often does not win with more than half of the whole population's vote.

Increasingly, a third of a country's population is more than enough to swing a country in one direction. If we want to see less of such extreme cases, the system needs to change.

Voting should be made compulsory for all citizens, just like what we have in Singapore, Australia, Peru, and many other countries. The idea of voluntary voting just does not work.

Ng Chee Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'For voices to count, voting should be compulsory'. Print Edition | Subscribe