Sun, Dec 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Making an informed electorate

Following Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) election on Nov. 24, Google searches for “1992 consensus” in the city spiked, data from Google Trends showed. In a discussion thread on the Professional Technology Temple (PTT) online bulletin board system, netizens said the city’s voters were going uninformed to the polls.

“So they didn’t know what the ‘1992 consensus’ was, but they voted anyway?” one user wrote.

Another PTT user compared the situation with the UK’s vote to leave the EU, with people there searching Google for “What is Brexit?” and “What is the EU?” following the successful “leave” vote.

Citing statistics from Pantheon Macroeconomics, the Business Insider Web site in April reported that regret among Brexit voters has been growing since late last year. British officials on Wednesday said the UK economy would shrink by up to 9.3 percent — what would be its worst slump ever — if the UK were to leave the EU with no plan.

In a year or two, will conservative Taiwanese voters also regret the ballots they cast on Nov. 24?

The New York Times on Monday quoted a 25-year-old Taipei project manager as saying that he was stunned by the outcomes of the referendums on gay rights.

“We thought we lived in a progressive and open country, but after seeing the disparity in this referendum, we discovered we were living in a place that we didn’t recognize,” he said.

As an exercise in democracy, were the nation’s nine-in-one elections a success — or a failure?

Despite the referendum results, the government was “very happy” to hear the electorate’s voice, Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said, adding: “What is important is to give the people an opportunity to express their opinion.”

Opinions are mixed as to why Taiwanese voted the way they did, but Stephane Corcuff, a specialist in Taiwan studies at Sciences Po Lyon, told the Central News Agency that voters felt discontent over the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration’s performance over the past two years.

The outcome was more of a loss for the DPP than a win for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), said Dafydd Fell, director of the Centre of Taiwan Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Similarly, KMT Taichung mayor-elect Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) on the day after the elections said that voters were not so much showing that they liked the KMT as that they were unhappy with the DPP.

The KMT would need to perform well over the next two years to do well in the 2020 presidential and legislative elections, she added.

The outcome might reflect the democratic will of the majority, but what does it say about the nation’s democracy if voters were ill-informed, or acting on irrational sentiment? Do voters have a responsibility to make well-informed decisions at the polls?

While many would argue that voters should know what candidates stand for, the challenge becomes who decides the definition of “well-informed” and who decides whether a voter meets the criteria?

Georgetown University political philosopher Jason Brennan said he believes that a randomly chosen group of several hundred citizens should have the job of going to the polls, adding that the votes of those who can prove their political acumen should matter more.

Although such a controversial idea is unlikely to be put into practice, the government should still make an effort to better inform the electorate about issues represented on the ballot.

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