Tue, Dec 20, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Making the most of the national right to vote

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

In the final televised presidential debate, the contending parties’ nomination lists for legislators-at-large sparked much discussion. Parties have deliberately nominated figures who have a good public image to help win support and also to attack their opponents. Voters have the right and responsibility to monitor those in government and they welcome competition between parties that helps disadvantaged people and experts in certain subject fields get into the legislature.

However, parties need to be reminded that, although they have nominated these “squeaky clean” people, they also need to make sure that if they are elected, they turn their party’s political views into laws and carry through on major policies.

According to the Central Election Commission, 11 political parties have registered to take part in next month’s legislative and presidential elections. These parties display some common patterns in their nominations.

First, the list of nominations for legislators-at-large is a way of managing what kind of impression the public receives about each party. Nominees from disadvantaged groups and those who have a good social standing are normally placed high up on the “safe list.”

Second, party lists for legislators-at-large also function as a way to foster political talent. For example, the Democratic Progressive Party is using the concept of a “new generation” to signal a changing of the guard.

Third, the at-large nomination lists reflect the personal aspirations and election concerns of the three presidential candidates.

Fourth, the processes by which the parties have drawn up these lists show that they all lack an internal democratic mechanism for doing so. The timing of each party’s nominations shows their varying methods of political calculation, their attempts to pacify internal dissent and the way in which they have sat on the fence and tried to out-wait election variables. They also show that the parties have not yet reached a consensus on what qualifications legislators-at-large should have.

So how should voters go about casting their second vote — the one cast for a party as opposed to a candidate? Hopefully the following suggestions can be of some help for those who want to make a rational decision and avoid voting for certain candidates, but then regretting it later.

First, voters should carefully read the information provided on the election notice sent to them before polling time, including the stated political views of each party, and then think about whether the various parties’ at-large nominees are capable of effectively putting their parties’ political views into action.

Second, voters should consider whether the legislator-at-large nominees are capable of speaking up as representatives of public opinion. In the case of incumbent legislators, people can refer to legislative reports released by Citizen Congress Watch, which will tell them at a glance whether those nominees are worthy and competent candidates for the legislature.

The final point to be made is that smart voters know that even after an election they should not stop monitoring the government.

Keeping an eye on elected leaders is the only way to ensure that democracy is really in the hands of the public, rather than just being a system for handing power over to elected representatives, only for them to become the “masters” of democracy and trample on the rights of their supposed bosses — the public.

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