The Central Election Commission (CEC) is set to announce today how ballots for elections and referendums will be handed out during next year's legislative and presidential elections.
Whichever method the committee opts for is bound to cause a furor, as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) remain at loggerheads over how voters should receive their ballots on election day. The DPP backs a one-step process (voters receive the ballot and referendum papers simultaneously) as it believes this will improve referendum turnout, while the KMT supports the two-step method used during the 2004 presidential election.
The statute governing the organization of the CEC means the Cabinet selects almost all of its members, giving the government control of the body and leading many observers to predict it will plump for the DPP's preferred modus operandi.
The KMT, skeptical of the CEC's ability to ignore DPP demands, has gone to great lengths to influence opinion in its favor, urging the commission not to change the established formula and staging demonstrations of the potential for confusion should a new method be employed.
But while some of the KMT's arguments do hold water, the despicable tactics it has used to try to ensure its will is obeyed -- raising the specter of cross-strait conflict and making all 18 counties and cities under its jurisdiction declare they will disobey any decree from the CEC requiring joint ballot distribution -- have only done damage to its image.
The prospect of having a majority of Taiwanese telling the KMT that they want their stolen assets returned or having them openly debase the myth that is the "Republic of China" is obviously too much for the party to bear.
In a mature democracy, political groups that want to defeat a referendum question launch a campaign in the hope of eliciting a "no" vote from the electorate; they do not instigate a rival poll whose only aim is to guarantee the original referendum fails, nor do they try to ensure the voting method used is conducive to the plebiscite's failure.
By behaving in this fashion the KMT is clearly demonstrating both its fear of the electorate and the party's anti-democratic nature.
The KMT hopes that the two-step method will cause voters either simply to forget to participate in the referendum -- as the DPP claims they did in 2004 -- or allow it to discourage or intimidate people into not voting at all.
On the other hand, after expending thousands of man-hours collecting the 800,000 or so signatures enabling each of the referendums to take place in the first place, the DPP should not have to rely on manipulating the CEC to help pass the plebiscites.
In the event the commission decides to keep the existing system, the DPP will need to come up with a strategy to ensure maximum participation on election day.
This should not be difficult and the DPP doesn't deserve to get a positive result if it is incapable of coming up with a solution to this problem. One or two party staffers outside each polling station reminding people not to forget the referendum would be a simple, yet effective, answer.
Of course, these staffers may be subject to intimidation from opposition-aligned thugs opposed to the plebiscites, but the dangwai movement and DPP never let years of similar treatment put them off in the past.