Mon, Dec 06, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Election merger plan sparks debate

SAVINGS:By merging the dates for the presidential and legislative elections, the government could save an estimated NT$600 million per election cycle

By Loa Iok-sin and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters

Politicians across party lines have begun to weigh in on the political ramifications of combining the 2012 presidential election and next year’s legislative polls.

Stressing that the Central Election Commission (CEC) has no preference, CEC Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu (鄧天祐) said yesterday that a detailed discussion would be tabled in a meeting next month and the issue would be finalized by June at the latest.

Teng made the remarks in the wake of media reports that said the proposal has so far won grudging support from some lawmakers from both parties, who have suggested that the move could increase turnout and reduce the administrative costs of holding two separate elections.

“It’s true that holding the two elections on the same day could save a lot of money, but we must bear in mind that inauguration dates for legislators and the president are almost four months apart. This could be a problem,” Teng said.

“Besides, the CEC and the Ministry of the Interior have already reached a consensus on implementing absentee voting for the presidential election in 2012, but if we’re to combine the two elections, it would make it too complicated and may delay our first attempt at absentee voting,” he added.

The legislative inauguration is on Feb. 1, while the presidential inauguration is on May 20. In the past, legislative elections have been held in either the previous December or January, while presidential elections have always been held in March.

Due to the complexity of the issue, Teng said the CEC was still collecting information and opinions on whether the legislative and the presidential elections should be combined and would discuss it during next month’s commission meeting.

At a separate setting yesterday, both Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that they would respect the CEC’s decision.

“It’s the CEC’s power to decide. I fully respect whatever decision they make,” Wu said. “I will not say whether I prefer holding the elections together or separately, because if I do so, people would say I’m trying to influence the CEC’s decision.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers were quick to downplay any political motives.

“It is still uncertain whether consolidated elections benefit any one party over the other, so I don’t think that this [proposal] is made to help President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九),” KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) told FTV News.

However, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said that given Ma’s current opinion poll figures, tying the two elections could instead boost the opposition party’s prospects.

Incumbent lawmakers are expected to benefit most from the proposal, Huang added.

“Given the larger political environment at the moment ... merging the elections would bring more benefits for the DPP,” Huang said.

Holding the two elections, both running on a four-year cycle, on the same day would decrease the number of major election dates around the country to three, when including the local and special municipality elections.

KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said he expects the latest proposal could save the government about NT$600 million (US$19.8 million) per election cycle.

However, the DPP maintains that it is still too early to support the move. In the meantime, DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) added, the party will first take a look at its possible political impact and how it could affect the election prospects of opposition party candidates.

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