Liberian Election: Too Many Choices?

Looking at the election system of Liberia, in contrast with the United States, there is one obvious difference: the number of candidates.

In the US, there are two potential presidential candidates, of whom voters get to pick between; one representing the Republican, right-winged ideology, and the other a left-winged Democrat representative. The two party system is an effective one, but it also has some flaws. Some would say that the two party system does not give voters enough choice. Many people fall somewhere between the Republican and the Democratic ideologies, and find it hard to choose a side that they are comfortable voting for. This may relate to a lack of voter participation in the US.

There are 16 presidential candidates for the citizens of Liberia to choose from. (NEC Announces Candidates)  In an election with this many options, it is highly unlikely that one candidate will obtain 50% of the votes. To account for this, there is a run-off election between the two highest vote getters of the first round.  During the first round of voting, voters are able to vote for a kin member, a friend, or a candidate with ethnic ties. People can vote for a representative that they may not believe will win, or who they may not think they would be the best candidate, but they do so to stay loyal to these social ties. For the second round, voters can focus more on the issues, and become more educated about who, of the remaining two, will be the best president for the country.

The psychology of choice, (the paradox of choice) is characterized by too many choices actually causing paralysis, rather than liberation. Having too many options can cause confusion, and a sense of being overwhelmed. The decision making process can be put off as it is too much to digest at once. The paradox of choice is that too many choices can lead to not making a choice at all. (Ted Video)

Does the psychology of choice apply to the elections in Liberia? Are too many candidate choices lowering voter participation? Do the people of Liberia feel overwhelmed by the amount of choices, or do they like the number of choices? (Voter’s Knowledge)

Due to Liberians voting based on social ties, they often don’t have to make the choice between all 16 candidates. They vote for the person who is socially connected to them, and don’t worry about the other candidates.  During the second round, there are only 2 candidates left, and they then make a more issue related, and educated vote on the two choices. In reality, the paradox of choice does not apply to election voting in Liberia.

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