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.
The main reason for combining the two elections is that it might save NT$500 million (US$17.3 million). That money, however, will be saved at the risk of creating a constitutional crisis by, among other things, extending the “lame duck” period between presidential elections and the transfer of power.
Democracy can not be measured in money. If saving money is the only concern, why don’t we draw lots to decide who will be president? Despite much effort to synchronize the length of the presidential and -legislative terms, we will have to start all over again if the executive branch one day dissolves the legislature under to the additional articles of the Constitution.
What hurts the public most is not really the cost of yet another election. Instead, what the public dislikes the most is elections driven by money, which leads to environmental and political pollution. By combining the elections, the campaign will become even more intense, and pollution and campaign expenditures are both likely to rise.
Expenditure of tens or even hundreds of millions of New Taiwan dollars by far exceed a legislator’s salary during a single term. Once elected, they may profit from corruption or by selling government posts, making secret deals under the table in exchange for political donations from conglomerates or other voter “services” — such as canceling traffic tickets and lobbying for illegal construction.
On the surface, the merger of elections will save taxpayers a small amount of money, but it may in practice cost them much more. If Taiwan really hopes to reduce campaign expenditures, it should learn from the practices common in other countries of legally fixing a strict ceiling for campaign expenditures. That is the way to remove the ultimate cause of the trouble.
Pan Han-shen is spokesman of the Green Party Taiwan.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
An article on the Nature magazine Web site reports that 22 scientists last month wrote to the daily Dagens Nyheter criticizing Sweden’s no-lockdown response to COVID-19. However, evidence-based analysis shows that a lockdown is not a one-size-fits-all strategy and Sweden is showing the world a sustainable way for everybody to fearlessly live with the virus, which is an inevitable situation that everyone must face and accept for a while. The biggest myth about lockdowns is that they are the only solution when an epidemic worsens. A lockdown is a measure to cordon off a seriously affected area so that people in
On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) spoke during the opening ceremony of this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA). For the first time in the assembly’s history, attendees, including Xi, had to dial in virtually. Xi made no acknowledgement of the Chinese government’s role in causing the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was there any meaningful apology. Instead, he painted China as a benign force for good and a friend to all nations. Except Taiwan, of course. The address was a reheated version of the speech Xi gave at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Xi again attempted to step into the
China’s prevention of Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO and other UN specialized institutions is misleading the world. China always asserts that UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 established the so-called “one China principle,” in which Taiwan is a province of China. This is fake information that is part of China’s grand external propaganda strategy. Resolution 2758 made clear that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the sole legitimate representative of China at the UN and its specialized institutions. However, there is not a single word related to Taiwan in the resolution, no mention of the