Sun, Apr 24, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Merging elections has hidden costs

By Pan Han-shen 潘翰聲

On Tuesday, the Central Election Commission (CEC) decided to combine the presidential and legislative elections next year. This violates the Constitution by depriving small political parties of their right to run for the presidency. It also increases tensions between the two main parties, while not really producing any cost savings.

Recklessly deciding the nation’s mid to long-term power distribution based on ill-considered responses to opinion poll results instead of rational communication and persuasion seriously hurts democracy. As the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) compete for the presidency, these two giant elephants are trampling on small parties, hampering the development of pluralist democracy.

In the previous legislative elections, in January 2008, none of the nation’s small parties passed the 5 percent threshold stipulated in Article 22 of the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act (總統副總統選舉罷免法). This article stipulates that presidential and vice presidential candidates may register by way of political party nomination. However, to be allowed to nominate a presidential or vice presidential candidate, the party’s candidates must have received at least 5 percent of the vote in the latest legislative or presidential election. By combining the two elections, only the presidential candidates of the two major parties will remain, effectively blocking smaller parties from advancing a candidate.

As a result, a third-party ticket can only be registered based on the regulations in Article 23 of the same act, which requires the signatures of 1.5 percent of the total number of voters in the latest legislative election.

If the presidential and legislative elections are held separately, there would most likely be a two-month period between the elections, using the presidential and legislative elections in 2008 as an example. According to Article 34 of the recall act, public notice for registration of presidential and vice presidential candidates must be issued 50 days before the polling day. That means that small parties that garner 5 percent of the vote in the legislative election are eligible to nominate a presidential and a vice presidential candidate. If small parties pass the threshold in the legislative election, but are deprived of their right to recommend a presidential and a vice presidential candidate because the two elections are combined, they may file a lawsuit to demand a new election, causing greater political and social costs.

Owing to a change in the electoral system four years ago, we now use a single-member district, two ballot system, where the winner takes all. This has forced small parties out of local elections. Although small parties are eligible for -legislator-at-large seats by winning a certain percentage of the second ballot, a party must nominate 10 legislative candidates in order to have their party votes counted. This is outrageous discrimination against small parties.

Looking back at the combined elections, the polarized opposition between the KMT and the DPP will force small parties to chose sides, in effect becoming “political wallflowers,” lest they become further marginalized and lose all support. Our political culture, which used to shine with the colorful political landscape of a rising democracy, will then be forced into the two-party mold. That will only further intensify the blame game between the two big parties.

This story has been viewed 4454 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top