Contact this organisation

The de Borda Institute, 36 Ballysillan Road, Belfast BT14 7QQ, Northern Ireland
+44 (0)28 9071 1795

Thematic areas


Director Peter Emerson beside a statue of Jean-Charles de Borda

The focus of the De Borda Institute is reform of voting procedures, enabling them to work for cohesion and compromise rather than division and confrontation. They promote the use of inclusive voting procedures, not just in elections, but primarily in decision-making: the Modified Borda Count, (MBC).

While electoral systems vary, decision-making rarely does. In business, law and in politics, people use (simple or weighted) majority votes. Multi-option voting is rare. Consensus voting is almost unheard of, although it is more inclusive and more democratic than the adversarial and dichotomous majority vote.

De Borda has not only looked at voting procedures in Northern Ireland, but also promoted the use of a consensus based voting system in other divided societies, including Austria, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, and South Africa.

Contributions to the Northern Ireland Peace Process

  • Bringing all sides in the Northern Ireland conflict together, in 1986, 8 years before the cease-fire.
  • Using an electronic count at another all-party conference in Belfast, in 1991. On this occasion, the Institute also had a Bosnian in attendance.
  • Organising an MBC social survey in 1998, part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
  • Publishing 'Defining Democracy' – Springer, Heidelberg – in 2012, with two book launches, one in the House of Lords, the other in Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President in the Republic of Ireland.
  • In 2013, the de Borda Institute made use of an MBC in China.

Why the MBC matters

All the demonstrations of the MBC – in Ireland North and South, the UK, elsewhere in Europe including Russia, the United States and, as noted above, now in China – have all been successful. The MBC has also been used for real; the de Borda Institute recently persuaded Dublin City Council to use an MBC in a recent multi-option debate. This is the first time such a voting procedure has been used in an elected chamber, certainly in Ireland. “All the wars in the former Yugoslavia started with a referendum,” the Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodjenje has said. The de Borda Insitute works to try and promote the use of a more inclusive methodology.

Last updated: November 2009