In the spirit of constitutional reform, several New Mandala readers have proposed alternative voting systems that would prevent the undue exercise of electoral power by the rural majority. The tyranny of the majority clearly has to be stopped, but some of the suggestions proposed (special treatment for those born on Saturday) clearly do not accord with today’s democratic spirit. More reasonable is the proposal by one contributor that votes be weighted according to place of birth. But what about middle class paragons of democracy who have been able to cast off their humble origins?
These contributions have prompted me to brush off my own proposal for democratic reform. It has been some time in the drafting, and there may well still be flaws, but given the spate of alternative proposals appearing on New Mandala I feel obliged to bring it into the light of day.
Clearly a key part of the electoral problem in Thailand is that the vote of a farmer who just managed to scrape through third grade of primary school is worth the same as an internationally educated Bangkok academic (who is familiar with the latest in Western post-modern theory). How can a democratic system be sustainable in the face of such stark inequality?
To address this system I propose a New Sakdina system whereby voting weights are determined by level of education.
With the lowest weight, of course, would be the completely uneducated. Some may be shocked to learn that there are still people wandering the remote regions of Thailand who have never been to school. In fact, I have even seen some of them casting a vote (and signing their name beforehand with a crude thumb-print). Shocking! Their weighting should clearly be so low as to make voting hardly worth lining up in the queue.
A slightly higher weight would go to those with primary education. But only slightly higher! A full secondary education would be richly rewarded, especially if it is from an elite urban school where educational standards can be assured. There is potential for manipulation here, especially as some populists have actually promoted secondary education for rural folk, so the system should be carefully monitored and reviewed.
Much more generous weightings would be applied to a university education. But there would clearly have to be a sharp distinction between well established universities with a good name (even if some of their students don’t know how to dress in public!) and provincial Johnny-come-latelys (you know who you are!). International degrees should, of course, attract a weighting bonus. (Any association with the Midnight University would result in a severe downgrading.) Proving educational attainment at higher levels should be no problem. Voters would simply have to carefully take their graduation photo off the wall, dust it, and show it to the polling officer.
At the peak of the system would, of course, be the peak of educational attainment – the honorary degree. I would propose a maximum New Sakdina rating for the rare class of individuals who can receive a degree without even studying for it!