Sun, May 15, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Finally, an election to cheer about

Yesterday's National Assembly elections will be remembered for a record-low turnout -- 23.35 percent. But 83 percent voted for political parties that support amendment of the Constitution. So it seems that, as predicted, the constitutional amendments will be approved by the National Assembly when it convenes.

Voter turnout rates have experienced a decline in elections subsequent to last year's presidential poll. Of course, a number of factors have contributed to this latest drop, including the weather and voter burnout.

But even more importantly, the public is increasingly tired of watching politicians bickering among themselves and shifting on their messages around election time.

Distraction of voters by the meaningless trips to China by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) also played a role. The resulting lack of publicity on the National Assembly election caused confusion over what this election was about.

But Lien and Soong's hopes that their trips to China would help their parties have been dashed. This is especially true in the case of the PFP, whose support is withering.

The KMT gained 38.92 percent of the vote, which was higher than its vote for the legislative elections. However, it gained 117 seats, three less than its goal of 120 seats.

More significantly, it was defeated in terms of number of seats by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which received 42.52 percent of the vote and 127 seats.

Under these circumstances, Lien -- whom many speculate was hoping for a decisive victory in this election to keep his chairman's post -- is most likely to have been very disappointed.

But the PFP is the biggest loser in this election, winning only 6.11 percent of the vote and 18 seats. The party now faces the most serious threat to its survival since it was founded.

Its support in this election was significantly down on even its reduced support for the legislative elections. This time, it was also upstaged by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) which ranked third with 7.05 percent of the vote and 21 seats. The KMT's increase in support seems to have come at the expense of the PFP, and support for the pan-blue camp remains unchanged despite the two chairmen's visits to China.

For the TSU, defeating the PFP to become the third largest party in the National Assembly is a big accomplishment.

As for the DPP, it performed a lot better than expected, especially given the pessimism that resulted after a week of bickering with the TSU. The number of DPP seats, 127, is higher than its goal of 120 seats. Of greater interest, however, is the fact that the DPP vote was significantly higher than for the legislative elections.

The encouraging message that emerges from the poll is that, despite the dramatically low turnout, the nation is finally back on the road to reform. The Constitution must be amended, and these amendments bode well for the maturation of Taiwan's democracy.

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