Mon, Aug 08, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Legislature could face makeover next year

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

Last month, the People First Party (PFP) said it hoped to nominate candidates in constituencies nationwide and to invite celebrities to run on its legislators-at-large roster. The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) is also vigorously searching for a list of potential legislator-at-large candidates with the hope of securing votes in the “second ballot” party vote. If both these parties qualify for legislator-at-large seats by surpassing the 5 percent of the vote threshold, there will inevitably be structural changes to the legislature, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.

Under such a scenario, most likely neither the Democratic Progressive Party nor the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) will gain an absolute legislative majority and the nation might see an interesting situation in which several parties compete for influence in the legislature.

In fact, the “single-member district, two-vote” electoral system for legislative elections was only introduced in 2008 and since the Central Election Commission has not been very active in disseminating information about the system, many voters do not understand how the second vote — also known as the party vote — works.

However, as the PFP and TSU continue to campaign, it is possible that a trend might develop in next year’s legislative elections where voters cast their second vote for a different party than the candidate they vote for. In other words, although the smaller parties might not do so well in the first ballot for district seats, they could still obtain the 5 percent of the vote required to participate in the legislature and organize a legislative caucus, thus becoming influential minority parties.

Elections are interesting to watch because of the complexities, unpredictability and malleability brought about by these systemic changes. In response to a new situation in the legislature, many inappropriate rules or practices would have to be reviewed and discussed anew, so that the legislature would be able to reflect public opinion and supervise the government.

For instance, the Procedure Committee has deteriorated into a tool for the majority party to obstruct the opposition. The next legislature should modify this imbalance and record and publicize the process through which the Procedure Committee arranges the priority of bills, thus fulfilling the fundamental requirement for a transparent legislature.

Also, longstanding caucus negotiations often bypass the Procedure Committee’s authority, reducing the attention paid to policy debates and instead focusing on negotiations between caucus officials. As a result, if legislative oversights occur, then it becomes difficult to assign responsibility. This kind of hidden rule should be altered by the next legislature.

In all, a more powerful legislature might offer us the opportunity to consolidate the nation’s democracy and this would have a much greater impact than the makeup of a new Legislative Yuan.

Ku Chung-hwa is an executive director of Citizen Congress Watch.

Translated by Katherine Wei

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