As Taiwan's highly competitive legislative race enters the final stage, many candidates who are trailing in the polls hope to buy votes. As a result, the Ministry of Justice and prosecutors have been extremely busy investigating allegations of vote-buying. Despite the government's earnest efforts over the past four years, the practice of vote-buying appears to be either somewhat less prevalent, or at the very least, less transparent a process than before. There is still much room for improvement in cleaning up Taiwan's elections.
A big problem with the crackdown on vote-buying continues to be that those who are caught red-handed don't have to pay the price until much later, long after they've been elected and sworn into office. Recently, in the alleged vote-buying case of Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU, 無黨團結聯盟) lawmaker Tsai Hao (
The problem is there is very little, if any, public or moral pressure on candidates who buy votes. Candidates don't seem to feel ashamed or morally compromised either. There is less self-discipline keeping one from doing so beforehand, and very little outside public condemnation once a person is caught. This effectively takes away most of the punishment for such wrongdoing. As a result, vote-buying has for decades been an inseparable part of Taiwan's electoral process. Frankly speaking, people have gotten used to it.
An obvious example is former Kaohsiung City Council speaker Chu An-hsiung (
Those accused or found guilty of vote-buying can always handily cry "political persecution," and present themselves as martyrs. There is always someone ready and willing to buy into this popular excuse. Such is the case of Chu An-hsiung and People's First Party (PFP) lawmaker Chung Shao-ho (
Unless people's perception about vote buying truly changes, no amount of reward money offered by the Ministry of Justice will effectively get to the root of the problem.