Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Recalling lawmakers not a viable alternative

By Jan Shou-jung 詹守忠

The move to recall President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was always doomed to fail. With the Democ-ratic Progressive Party (DPP) holding over a third of the legislative seats, the opposition was never able to get the required backing of two-thirds of the legislature to pass the motion.

Failing that, the anti-Chen campaign has proposed recalling DPP legislators as a round-about approach to achieving its goal of recalling the president. But is this proposal feasible?

The requirements to recall legislators involve three phases: the motion must be proposed by 2 percent of the voting population, a petition bearing the signatures of 13 percent of voters must be submitted to the legislature, and the proposal must be approved by a majority of voters.

As the DPP's public approval rating has sunk to a low 18 percent, this seems like an easy task to pull off. However, a look at election statistics would show that this might be even more difficult than recalling the president.

Take Taipei's first constituency as an example; it has 1,003,742 voters. That means it would take 20,074 voters to submit a recall proposal, 130,487 signatures to establish a recall motion, and 501,871 votes to pass it.

In Taipei's second constituency, which has 961,544 voters, 19,231 voters are required to submit a recall proposal, 125,001 signatures to establish a recall motion, and the support of 480,772 voters to pass it. As such, proposing a recall might not be difficult, but getting the signatures of 13 percent of voters to establish a recall motion would be quite a challenge.

Past experience tells us that obtaining a voter's signature would cost about NT$20 each. This means that the cost of a signature campaign in Taipei would be NT$2.5 million (US$75,758) for each legislator, or NT$20 million for a total of eight legislators. Collecting signatures to recall eight lawmakers would be a massive project.

If a recall motion is established by obtaining the required amount of signatures and a recall vote is organized, the recall motion will still fail, based on past experience.

In the 2004 presidential election, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) only garnered 452,315 votes in Taipei's first constituency and 445,555 in Taipei's second constituency, while current KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won 463,674 and 429,428 votes in the same districts in the 2002 mayoral election. Even if all these people were to vote for the recall of a legislator, that would still not be enough.

In 1994, a recall motion initiated by environmentalists to recall pro-nuclear KMT legislators Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉), Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and Chan Yu-jen (詹裕仁) failed due to a low 21 percent voter turnout. In other words, opinion polls are one thing, elections another and voting in favor of a legislator's recall still another.

Recalling a president does not cost much since establishing a presidential recall motion only requires the signature of 56 legislators, whereas recalling legislators requires a huge amount of human and material resources. If the motion to recall legislators is not backed by steely determination, it would only exhaust the resources of the anti-Chen campaign. We would probably then witness the unraveling of the anti-Chen campaign.

In response to the anti-nuclear activists' recall motion in 1994, the KMT revised the Election and Recall Law (選舉罷免法) to raise the requirements for passing a recall motion, creating an asymmetrical system wherein only 35,000 votes were required to be elected while a recall required 500,000 votes.

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