Sun, Dec 12, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Election result a product of the system

The result of the legislative elections are out, and as such, the biggest question on everyone's mind has been answered: the pan-blue camp will continue to hold a slight majority in the legislature, having won 114 seats out of 225.

That is hardly good news for those who are fed up with the continued gridlock in the Legislative Yuan over the past four years, where many important bills were blocked as a result of political rivalries.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) remains the biggest political party in the legislature, holding 89 seats. At 38 percent, the percentage of votes earned by DPP grew in number from the last legislative election, earning the party two additional seats. However, this growth falls far short of the pan-green camp's ambition of seizing a majority in the legislature.

This suggests that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who received 50.1 percent of the vote in March presidential election, was unable to use his relative popularity to raise support for pan-green candidates in yesterday's elections. The fact that 59 percent of voters participated in the legislative elections -- compared to 80.2 percent turnout for the presidential election -- probably played a significant role in this outcome.

Presumably, those who decided to stay home are predominantly moderate or undecided voters. In other words, people who do not have consistent party affiliation chose not to go to the polls. In a country as divided as Taiwan, this makes perfect sense. The March 20 presidential election left the nation bitterly divided, and the controversies surrounding that election have continued to plague the country to this day. As a result, many people have become sick and tired of politics, and many wanted nothing to do with the legislative elections.

The campaign strategies used by all political parties across the political spectrum contributed to the wave of voter apathy. There were very few debates on substantive policies and issues, and party platforms did little to lure moderate voters. Instead, how voters should allocate votes, and which candidates should be "dumped" and which be "saved" became the focus of campaigning. These strategies were only successful in motivating steadfast party supporters to go out and vote. The results show that moderate voters were largely alienated and that parties did not do enough to seek support from outside their traditional voter bases.

A closer look at the outcome also shows that many incumbents who were seemingly popular in pre-election surveys were actually defeated by small margins at the polls. Cases in point include the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) and Chen Tsueh-sheng (陳學聖) to name two. Also, in many districts, several candidates from the same party who received almost identical numbers of votes were defeated by a small margin.

The election result had much to do with the way the pan-green camp became too ambitious by nominating too many candidates in the same districts. It also had much to do with vote-allocation strategies. As a result of such strategies, many voters decided not to vote for candidates favored to win, and instead voted for those forecast to be underdogs. Interestingly, many "underdog" candidates got elected as a result.

Under the circumstances, it is comforting to know that this will be the last legislative election in which the "single-vote, multiple-member" system will be used, and that the problematic "save and dump" vote-allocation strategy it gives rise to will come to an end.

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