Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Councilor elections could get interesting

By Jan Shou-jung 詹守忠

Last Monday the legislature passed an amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) after a scuffle at the third reading. The discussion in the media has focused on three points: the appointment of township chiefs as district chiefs in the special municipalities; whether township representatives who become district advisers should be salaried; and the mayoral candidates for the municipalities.

The number of seats for elected representatives will shrink because of appointments, and the rivalry for city councilor slots will affect political parties. As the primaries intensify, the losers may leave their parties, potentially causing another wave of party reconstruction.

Under the new system, the total number of councilors will increase from 96 in Taipei and Kaohsiung to 315 seats for all five municipalities. The political resources of municipality councilors are not inferior to that of legislators. Some Taipei and Kaohsiung City councilors even enjoy higher publicity than legislators. After the formation of the five municipalities, the status and influence of city councilors is likely to rise, and political rookies and defeated legislators looking for a comeback will fight for these positions.

Under the amendment, Taipei County’s 65 councilors and 460 township representatives will drop to 66 councilors for Sinbei City. For Taichung City and County, which will merge, 103 councilors and 282 township representatives will drop to 63 councilors.

For Tainan City and County, 91 councilors and 388 township representatives will also be reduced to 63 councilors. For Kaohsiung City and County, 98 councilors and 308 township representatives will be cut to 66 councilors. The drop in elected seats in these municipalities will improve the quality of elected representatives and strengthen the party nomination process. However, because of strong competition and opposition to the amendment, a number of candidates may withdraw from their parties, especially the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

In Taipei City — the only municipality where the number of councilor seats will rise — there will be an increase of one or two seats in each district unless the electoral districts are redrawn. This will likely attract outsiders or the losers of legislative elections. Some of the pan-blue camp’s current Taipei City councilors formerly belonged to the People First Party (PFP) or the New Party (NP). Will the pan-blue candidates be pitted against each other again?

In the single-member district legislative elections, a candidate must secure more than half the vote to win, making two-party politics unstoppable. By contrast, the city councilor elections in special municipalities involve multi-member districts: They allow smaller parties to survive. Therefore, in the year-end municipality councilor elections, the KMT may have to compete not only with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), but also with the PFP and the NP.

This is the situation in Taipei City. Because of the cut in the number of seats for the other four municipalities and the difficulty the KMT and DPP will have dealing with this, many may turn to the TSU, the PFP or the NP. This could indirectly affect the mayoral elections.

In light of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) dwindling public support and the Cabinet’s poor performance, criticizing Ma is now popular with both political camps. The PFP and the NP could use this to their advantage, even forming a “grassroots service alliance” of township representatives and inviting PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) as a “consultant.” Though Soong has repeatedly pledged to withdraw from politics, the PFP is likely to play a role in the councilor elections.

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