A majority of the respondents in a poll released yesterday said that they supported the idea of holding the presidential election in tandem with the legislative poll, but nearly 50 percent said it should not happen until five years from now and that if elections were merged next year, they should be held together with a referendum on nuclear energy.
The next presidential poll is scheduled for March next year, while the next legislative elections should be held in December or January.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has proposed holding the two elections together. If a decision is made to merge the elections, it is likely that the presidential election would be moved forward because the law requires that legislative elections be held before the new session starts.
Yesterday’s poll, commissioned by the Taiwan Brain Trust, found 57.3 percent of respondents in favor of combining the elections, against 25.2 percent said they did not support the idea and 17.4 percent said they did not know or offer any opinion.
The survey found 49.9 percent of respondents said if the elections were held together, it should happen in 2016 to avoid controversy.
When asked whether they supported holding a referendum on nuclear energy concurrently with the presidential election or with a combined legislative and presidential poll, more than 50 percent said they backed the idea, while 36 percent said they did not support the idea and 13.7 percent said they did not know or did not offer any opinion.
Taiwan Brain Trust president Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said while the Ministry of the Interior planned to hold the elections together without changing any laws, he was afraid that it would cause legal and political disputes.
For example, voters eligible to elect a legislator must live in the same constituency for a minimum of four months, while the requirement for voters in the presidential poll is six months. The fines for election violations in the presidential and legislative polls are also different, he said.
David Huang (黃偉峰), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, said he has no problem with the two being held together to save money, as long as the shift doesn’t undermine the democratic system.
“The contracts between the people and the president and legislators are four years. Any change before the contracts mature undermines the legitimacy of their mandates,” he said. “If they really want to combine the legislative and presidential elections, they should do so next time [in five years].”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the DPP caucus would oppose merging the two elections because it thought the KMT’s move was a political gambit aimed at helping President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) secure his second term.
“It is a dirty trick for the KMT to change the rules after the race begins,” he said, adding that the DPP caucus would also pay attention to the possibility that the KMT might follow up by pushing for absentee voting after merging the two elections.
If the KMT genuinely wants to save money, it should combine the two-in-one election with a referendum on nuclear energy, Gao added.
The Taiwan Brain Trust survey showed 51.2 percent of the respondents opposed absentee voting, while 40.1 percent said they supported it and 8.7 percent said they did not know or did not offer any opinion.