THE CHINESE NATIONALIST Party (KMT) has accused the Democratic Progressive Party of hijacking what it calls "the sacred referendums" to mess up the elections, and is therefore urging voters not to vote in the referendums so as not to "destroy" the elections.
The KMT's statement is based on a strange logic.
If a loved one is kidnapped or hurt, we should try to save and protect them, not abandon them. If a sacred and precious belief is being hijacked, we should try to realize it and implement it, not discard it.
Holding referendums concurrently with elections is common in many countries.
In theory, this is considered favorable to maintaining ballot secrecy.
Not only that, but from a more academic perspective, cost sharing can create "spillover" effects, or, to put it more plainly, the elections and referendums can benefit each other by being held on the same day.
To voters, the cost of voting is the time spent. This is an obstacle inherent to democracy.
The cost of the referendum is not just the few hundred million NT dollars spent on administering the elections. The real cost of the elections should be calculated with Taiwan's GDP in mind.
The daily production value created by the public is NT$48.8 billion, or about NT$6 billion per hour.
From this perspective, the cost of voters taking time out to vote is astronomical.
To have time for the polls, people have to sacrifice their work or their leisure time. Helping them save time will increase their willingness to vote.
Thus combining elections, saving time and promoting democracy are three compatible concepts.
Combining the referendums and the legislative elections is good for both the ballots.
If the KMT really believes that the referendum institution is sacred, it should approve of attempts to save voters' time and protect ballot secrecy.
Only political parties that are opposed to the full and free expression of public opinion would worry about "one election hijacking another," only a party relying on money to mobilize voters for the legislative elections would tell supporters to forgo voting in the referendums and only a party with nominees whose interests stand in stark contrast to the referendums would accuse another party of using them to hijack elections.
When the KMT says that the referendums are sacred but refuses to vote in them, it is in fact revealing the true face of its presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou (
If the KMT has nothing to hide when it comes to its party assets, or if they support Taiwan's democracy, the party should stand up and convince the public to vote "no" to recovering the party's inappropriately obtained assets.
Instead, the party rejects the referendums altogether, rather than defending itself and justifying its party assets, thus compounding a bad deed by also denying what they claim to hold sacred.
By rejecting the referendums, the KMT is also sacrificing its own anti-corruption referendum. In its attempt to protect its ill-gotten party assets, the KMT has demonstrated to the public the insincerity with which it called for the referendum.
Paraphrasing what has by now become a well-known statement by Ma, I would like to tell the members of the KMT that I see you as human beings, as Taiwanese and I will educate you: The sacred referendums should be carried out and unjustly obtained party assets should be returned.
Lin Chia is a political commentator in Taipei.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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