Thu, Feb 09, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Reform the manner the legislature is selected

By Liao Chung-hung 廖崇宏

If votes were really able to clearly indicate how popular a particular political party was to voters all around a country, why was it then, in the recent elections, that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) combined gained 47 percent of the vote, but only managed to gain 38 percent of the number of seats? That’s a 9 percentage point difference.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) gained roughly 48 percent from both its electorate votes and party votes, but ended up with 59 percent of the seats, an 11 percentage point difference.

In voting for legislators and legislators-at-large, the KMT gained approximately 48 percent of the vote, while the DPP and the TSU gained a combined 46 percent, a difference of just 2 percentage points.

However, the KMT gained 59 percent of the legislative seats, while the DPP and the TSU only gained 38 percent, a difference of 21 percentage points.

This shows us just how unfair the current system is, something that some would suggest is unconstitutional in itself. Even though applications for a constitutional interpretation have already been made, the Council of Grand Justices has remained silent on the issue — but it is unclear if the justices feel they are unable to say anything about the matter or if they dare not.

The system used to allocate legislator-at-large seats is the same as the way seats in Germany’s Bundestag (the federal legislative body) are allocated. It is only under such a system that smaller political parties have any chance of existing. Germany usually has a coalition government.

According to Taiwan’s current system, there are a total of 34 seats for legislators-at-large chosen via the party vote, which accounts for only 30 percent of the total of 113 seats, and this number is only 43 percent of the total of 79 seats available for legislators elected from single districts or by other means, including seats allotted to Aborigines. With the same distribution of votes as above, if Taiwan had had an identical system to Germany, the KMT would have needed to go into coalition with another party in order to form a government: It would have been sufficient for them to join forces with the People First Party (PFP) to do so.

However, it would also have been possible for the DPP and the TSU to form a coalition government with the PFP, introducing an element of competitiveness and casting the PFP in the role of kingmaker. The PFP, then, would be in a very commanding position.

It is clear that Germany’s system is really far more capable of preventing situations which automatically favor the bigger parties, that it is a system better for the survival of smaller parties and it is also a system more capable of embodying the diversified values of our society.

Germany has adopted a single-member district, two-vote system in which the majority party in the Bundestag forms a Cabinet. Every time the Bundestag holds elections, all the political parties have to come up with an impressive list of party representatives as well as attractive policies in order to secure votes. Nobody talks about local factions. This is the only way party politics can work, and it is also the only way to stop the situation turning into a backroom deal where one person holds all the power.

Whenever the topic of change in the electoral process for Taiwan’s legislature comes up, the first reaction is to complain about the procedural problems this would cause. However, in the interests of the long-term stability and development of our society, the German system is far better than our current one.

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