Wed, Feb 01, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Vote reform is needed to progress, not regress

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) thinks the nation’s single-member district electoral system affected the outcome of the election by exaggerating support for the pan-blue camp in the north and pan-green camp in the south. He also thinks that as a result, the nation should go back to its previous multi-member district system. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) chimed in, saying the DPP caucus would initiate a constitutional interpretation of the claim that not all votes have equal value under the single-member district system.

The single-member district, double ballot system clearly produces a disparity in the overall percentage of votes a party receives and the percentage of legislative seats it holds. In practice, this means that the dominant party receives a greater percentage of seats relative to its percentage of the vote.

In Taoyuan County, pan-green legislators say the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) received 53.87 percent of the vote in last month’s elections, but took all the county’s legislative seats, leaving the DPP with no seats despite receiving 35.46 percent of the vote. However, in the 2004 legislative elections, when the multi-member district, single nontransferable system was in place, the KMT received 39.95 percent of the vote and six legislative seats. In the same election, the DPP received 34.17 percent of the vote and four seats.

However, if Taiwan went back to the multi-member district system without any accompanying measures, the results would be worse than the current system. The old system was a semi-proportional system: As long as the two camps completed the nomination and tactical voting arrangements, the percentage of seats won corresponded to the percentage of votes received.

Given the current situation with only a small difference in support between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, if the nation went back to the previous system, the result would be a dead heat. Since the KMT holds the upper hand on Kinmen and Matsu, as well as among Aborigines, it would win those eight seats, giving the KMT a permanent legislative majority. Such an outcome runs counter to the spirit of democracy.

On the other hand, if the DPP could win 52 percent of the vote on Taiwan proper under the current system, that could change the current situation in which the north belongs to the pan-blue camp and the south to the pan-green camp. The disparity in the percentage of votes received and the percentage of allotted seats in favor of larger parties would mean that the DPP would have a chance to win a legislative majority. Therefore, it would be odd to see the DPP request a return to the multi-member district system.

The single-member district system has been generally adopted by countries using a constituency system, which means that a constitutional interpretation of the claim that not all votes currently have equal value has little likelihood of succeeding. However, a request for a constitutional interpretation that 2,000 votes on Matsu or a bit more than 10,000 votes on Kinmen are enough to win an election, while a candidate in Yilan County who receives 110,000 votes fails to get elected, stands a better chance of succeeding, as about a dozen successful cases in Japan can attest to.

To solve the problem that not every vote has equal value, Taiwan should adjust the size of electoral districts rather than change the electoral system. If it proves difficult to adjust electoral districts, the nation could achieve equality between the percentage of votes received and the percentage of seats allotted by adopting Germany’s version of a mixed single-member district, double ballot system.

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