Sun, Apr 06, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Yu's antics highlight the need for vote reform

By Wang Yeh-lih 王業立

The recent action of KMT Legislator Yu Yueh-hsia (游月霞) has once again made many people feel the pangs of humiliation caused by low-class legislative behavior. Her banter has pulled the reputation of the legislature to rock bottom.

For a long time the Legislative Yuan has lacked a formal mechanism governing the procedure of policy debate between the ruling and opposition parties. As a result the floor becomes an arena where vulgar politicians stage their shows. Some insightful people often cannot help but sigh with grief and say, "How could these people have gotten elected?" But under the current electoral system, these legislators or mischief-makers who are so disliked by many voters often get elected with a high percentage of votes. Worse yet, the more daring they are in stage shows, the more likely they are to get re-elected.

Our legislators are elected by an unusual single non-transferable vote system with multi-member districts. Candidates can get elected by winning over heartfelt support from a small proportion of special voters or groups. There is no need for the candidates to seek acceptance from the majority of voters. Even if more than 90 percent of voters in a single district extremely dislike a particular candidate, he or she can still get elected with support from 5 percent of voters and can claim that he or she represents this district.

As a result, candidates often seek unorthodox campaign strategies, try to get benefits from special interest groups, bring in "black gold," or even bribe and buy votes. These have all become the common means by which they play their role and run for elections.

For many years, all walks of life have called for electoral reforms to be the top priority in the Legislative Yuan. If the future electoral system adopts a single-member district, two-vote system, candidates in any district will need to win support from the majority of voters to get elected. Then, many of the problems related to the irrational policymaking process in the legislature will vastly improve.

For comprehensive legislative reforms, there are two additional targets of reform besides the electoral system. One is the revision of the Legislative Yuan's internal regulations, including those governing the system of interpellation, committees, inter-party negotiations and special interests. The functions of the disciplinary and rule-making committees must be strengthened to gradually establish a legislative culture that embodies a seniority system, committee professionalism and a rational policymaking process.

Another target of reform is the completion of a set of sunshine laws, including the enactment of a political-donation law, a political-party law, a lobby law and the revision of the Election and Recall Law (選舉罷免法). Step by step, all of these sunshine laws will help to create a fair, open, transparent, clean legislative environment.

The greatest obstacle to legislative reform is that these reform measures must be initiated and passed by the legislators-to-be-reformed. This explains why the reform of the electoral system has not been passed eight years after it was first proposed, despite support from all the parties.

The Yu incident is perhaps another turning point for legislative reform. If various parties still remain unconcerned about reform, perhaps the angry voters can only resort to a referendum to thoroughly reform the legislature.

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