Thu, Apr 21, 2011 - Page 1 News List

KMT lawmakers split on poll merger

IMPACT:KMT legislators from southern Taiwan are saying that their chances of being re-elected would be damaged, as many voters there ‘vote ideologically’

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporters

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday were divided over the impact of a merger of the legislative and presidential elections next year, with some agreeing with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that it could help President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election bid.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Tuesday announced its decision to merge the two elections, which will likely be held on Jan. 14.

While the merger would “deal a heavy blow to KMT lawmakers in southern Taiwan, I will do my utmost” if it helps Ma get re-elected, KMT Greater Kaohsiung Legislator Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) said.

“Every KMT lawmaker whose constituency is in southern Taiwan understands” the impact of a combined election, Chung said. “[KMT lawmakers] are making a small sacrifice for the sake of the nation.”

Ho Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳), also a KMT legislator from Greater Kaohsiung, said combining the elections would “make it more difficult for KMT lawmakers like me who do a lot of constituency work,” to win a seat because “many constituents in southern Taiwan vote ideologically [along party lines].”

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said it would be useless to criticize the decision and what was important now was to look to the future.

“Now that the CEC has made its decision, lamenting will not amount to anything. What’s important now is to drum up support from voters,” Wang said.

Just because the DPP risks swamping the KMT in the south does not mean there is no room for the KMT to improve its presence, Wang said.

For its part, the DPP caucus called the decision to merge the elections “problematic,” saying this could create a four-month period during which the president would be a lame duck.

While the proposal was heavily supported by the KMT, the DPP said the plan appeared hastily put together.

“We urge them to reconsider,” DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said.

The plan “shows that the KMT lacks sincerity when it comes to dealing with the four-month constitutional window,” she said.

According to the Constitution, presidents-elect must wait until May 20 before taking office.

As such, DPP lawmakers said, the next legislative session should be lengthened by two months with the combined elections held in March. This would mean the merger would have to be postponed until 2016 at the earliest.

“It’s a more comprehensive plan,” DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said. “Amending the Constitution would resolve the lame-duck question.”

On DPP fears of a lame-duck presidency, the KMT legislative caucus said it would speed up legislation on the transition of power.

Wang said that a problem could occur if Ma were not re-elected and urged the KMT and the DPP to negotiate a draft statute governing the handover of presidential and vice presidential duties, which has been stalled in the legislature since April 2008.

The draft proposal was placed on the agenda for tomorrow’s plenary session.

The CEC said merging the elections could save about NT$500 million (US$17.2 million) in electoral costs. It would also reduce social costs, officials said, adding that there were no political considerations behind the decision.

CEC Vice Chairman Liu Yi-chou (劉義周) said there was “no reason” to be concerned over a lame-duck session, as Taiwan’s democracy was mature.

“Whether the Constitution needs be amended is a problem that should be resolved by the KMT and the DPP, not the commission,” Liu said.

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