Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Balancing the interests of the north and south

By Chiu Li-Li 邱莉莉

When the number of legislative seats is halved in the legislative elections in January, the 34 legislators-at-large will make up 30 percent of the legislature's 113 seats. Selecting nominees for legislator-at-large is no longer simply a matter of internal party affairs as local development needs and structural balance must also be considered.

The single-member district system puts a strong emphasis on the welfare of electoral districts, which means that the next legislature's approach to local public affairs will be ruled to a large extent by pork barrel politics, assisted by the legislators-at-large.

There are only four nominees from the area south of Yunlin County on the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) legislators-at-large safe list. Of these, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) was chosen for his prominent position.

If the list had been determined democratically, then outsiders would have had to respect the will of the majority. But the list was determined behind closed doors, and it clearly sacrificed professional image and expertise in the interest of settling electoral district disputes.

In the end, the ranking of the KMT's legislators-at-large clearly gives priority to northern candidates. Perhaps the KMT still sees the south as an inconsequential hinterland. Might that explain why Legislator Steve Chan (詹啟賢) of Tainan was not included on the list?

The KMT is already preparing itself for the worst-case scenario in the elections in the south, so as a national party, it would only be reasonable for it to strive to achieve a balance of regional interests through its legislators-at-large -- the exact opposite of the party's strategy. When it came to the distribution of power within the party, southern Taiwan was the first to be sacrificed.

The result will be that the KMT will be known for its northern bias.

As an elected representative from the south, I do not judge the list from a simple pan-blue or pan-green perspective.

After the number of seats is reduced by half, I think that the influence of legislators-at-large will become increasingly apparent, and parties must then consider the legislative power structure based on potential regional conflicts.

If the poll results go according to the KMT's plan, the pan-blue camp will continue to enjoy an advantage in the legislature. For southern Taiwan, this will result in less access to resources and development opportunities.

Can KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) long-stay program really aid the rise of the south? No.

Would distributing a greater proportion of legislators-at-large among southern candidates help to balance the inequality between urban and rural areas? The answer inclines toward the affirmative.

Despite this, the KMT has sacrificed the latter for the former in the belief that they can win votes simply by dabbling a little in the south.

Do they really take us southerners for elderly, uneducated country bumpkins?

Chiu Li-li is a Tainan City councilor.

Translated by Perry Svensson and Angela Hong

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