Thu, Nov 15, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Doing the KMT's two-step at the ballot box

Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

After settling internal referendum disputes to ease the possible negative impact on Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), the KMT faces controversy again over "two-step voting," finding it difficult to counter criticism of hustling support for the party while in effect boycotting the referendum.

The true motivation behind the so-called "two-stage voting" can only be to hinder Taiwanese independence. The problem is, independence is already a mainstream idea. Is it wise to hinder independence by opposing a referendum with the election looming?

Prominent pan-blue commentators and academics insist that if the referendum is not opposed, pan-blue supporters could assume that the KMT has lost its ideals and stay away from the ballot box.

But do these academics believe their own theory? These pundits must understand that radicalism is not a brilliant strategy for gaining votes in a single area election, as countless mayoral elections have shown.

The decision to promote a losing strategy may stem from the KMT tradition of despising internal traitors more than enemies.

Ex-prisoners of Green Island often point out that KMT special agents were more cruel to Chinese communists than Taiwanese separatists, since the separatists were considered enemies and the communists traitors.

The KMT believes that supporting a referendum to join the UN under the name "Taiwan" and the DPP's independence proposal are essentially the same thing, and the possible outcome of either hardly matters. Even if the enemies were victorious, there remains a chance to strike back if the pan-blue front remained united. The real danger would be to allow traitors to gloat over their success.

More realistic pan-blue politicians may already be aware that radicalism creates a disadvantage. But even though the fundamentalist faction in the party is small, they are also the most enthusiastic supporters -- people the party cannot afford to offend.

Radical pan-blue supporters are most likely of the "one country, two systems" persuasion, though there are some who seek immediate reunification. The latter is only estimated at one percent of the general population, whereas the former -- according to surveys conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council -- rose to 16 percent following President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) encouraging inaugural speech in 2000.

Though 10 percent of the general population is insubstantial, it represents a hefty 20 percent of the pan-blue front. The majority of this group, while unlikely to want to remove traitors more than gain political power, is inclined to blindly trust their traditionally respected academic proposals than oppose a referendum that could win the election.

Under pressure from these individuals, the KMT is forced to insist upon "two-step voting," effectively undoing the benefits of a referendum in the first place.

The "two-stage voting" system is thus a strategy to boycott the referendum and a point of contention. While Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德) of Academia Sinica justly criticized the 2004 defensive referendum, the suggestion that debates should be settled by "two-stage voting" requires further deliberation.

The realization that "two-step voting" easily reveals the partisanship of voters is illustrated by anti-independent radicals gathering to threaten others at voting stations.

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