Mon, Dec 08, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Sustainable vote system will require fair change

By Christian Fan Jiang 范姜提昂

The Nov. 29 elections were valuable because they went against the rule of thumb and carried huge positive significance. All that seemed right yet impossible in the past was highlighted by these elections, and this is worth a further response.

The legislative electoral system is unfair, but because the threshold required to amend the Constitution is too high, any such attempts have long been abandoned. Now the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has collapsed and we face legislative elections in just over a year. The current electoral system has been in place for two consecutive elections and it is clear that it favors the biggest party: The greater the portion of the vote a party wins, the more additional seats it gets.

There is no way the KMT will be able to turn things around before the next legislative elections. Following this system, the bigger the loss, the more additional seats they stand to lose, since the winner’s extra seats are taken from the loser. This effect was on clear display the first time the double ballot system was implemented in 2008. That year, the pan-blue camp won 56 percent of the vote, but 75 percent of the legislative seats.

Suppose that there are 100 seats in the legislature. With the current system, 70 of those seats would be decided in electoral districts, while the remaining 30 would be divided according to the number of votes a party receives. Also assume that there are only two parties, and that the KMT wins only 13 seats in the electoral districts, while it does quite well in overall party vote numbers, getting 40 percent of all votes cast. This would give the party 40 percent of the 30 seats divided based on the party vote, or 12 seats, giving it 25 seats in total.

If the Constitution is amended to adopt the German mixed-member proportional representation system, in which the number of seats awarded to a party must be equal to the proportion of the vote the party won, the KMT would receive 40 seats, having won 40 percent of the vote.

With the current system, the KMT would have received 25 seats in this example, but the German system would have given them 40 seats. As the loser, you lose 15 seats, just like that. Hopefully the people in the KMT’s think tanks studying comparative electoral systems report this difference. Pushing for an unfair election system is certain to come back to haunt you. The only way to promote a sustainable system is to work toward fairness.

Some people say it is not possible to amend the Constitution because the threshold is too high, but the seventh constitutional amendment shows that it is not a problem to gain three-fourths support as long as a legislative consensus can be reached. Furthermore, if no changes are made, that would clearly be disadvantageous to the KMT.

This change would be too late to implement in time for the 2016 elections, but if the KMT does nothing now, and then suffers in the 2016 elections, one can only wonder if they will receive fair treatment in 2020 or be able to turn their situation around.

As for a referendum, the seventh constitutional amendment, which introduced the electoral changes, was voted on by the now defunct National Assembly the following year. The only thing required to pass this simple request for fairness is a consensus between parties to pass a constitutional amendment during the first half of next year and commit to holding a referendum together with the presidential and legislative elections half a year later.

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