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Mon, Nov 19, 2001 - Page 3 News List

December 1 elections: Fairness, feasibility of vote allocation stirs up discussion

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

The DPP launched its strategy for vote allocation last week and analysts have predicted that the People First Party (PFP) will likely adopt similar measures despite the fact that the effectiveness of the practice is in doubt.

Vote allocation -- the system used by the DPP -- involves requesting known individual supporters to vote for specific individual candidates in multi-member constituencies. It targets all known party supporters within an area and has proven effective for both the DPP and the New Party in past legislative elections. The DPP hopes to maximize the chance of all of the party's candidates being elected, and believes that seeking a relatively even distribution of votes for all its candidates will help each of its candidates receive a specific minimum number of votes.

John Chang (章孝嚴), a former KMT secretary general and foreign minister who has been nominated as a legislative candidate for Taipei's southern district, argues, however, that vote allocation runs contrary to democratic principles.

The DPP's northern district general director Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) said the strategy is "designed specifically for Taiwan's `multi-member district, single vote' electoral system (複數選區, 一票制).

Wang Yeh-lih (王業立), a professor of political science at Tunghai University, echoed Lin's remarks, saying the practice is unique to Taiwan's election system.

"This phenomenon could only happen under Taiwan's election system. Since that is so, I don't think it is really opposed to the democratic spirit, if we look at it as a manifestation of party politics," Wang said.

The measure was introduced by the New Party in the 1995 legislative election, and successfully helped the party win 21 seats in the Legislative Yuan.

In the same election, the DPP also practiced the measure successfully in Taipei's southern constituency, delivering victories to all four of the party's nominees.

The measure began to be challenged after the 1998 legislative elections when only seven of the New Party's 36 nominees were elected and one of the DPP's four nominees in the Taipei southern constituency failed.

Although the New Party's 1998 failure was attributed to several factors, the party's campaign manager Jaw Shaw-kung (趙少康) admitted that the party failed to get the base number of votes needed in order to have enough votes to allocate to its nominees.

Vote allocation requires candidates to avoid emphasizing themselves over other candidates in their party and asks voters to ignore their personal preferences for any candidate but the party's designee.

Wang said successful vote allocation required two key components.

"First, whether the party can attract enough votes to be able to distribute them evenly to its nominees is very important. Second, the gaps between nominees' images can't be too wide," he said.

Wang Hsueh-fung (王雪峰) and Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉), both running in the north of Taipei city, said the measure was a manifestation of "party politics," but admitted that there were some not-so-desirable side effects.

"The measure doesn't allow for candidates to distinguish themselves from one another," Wang said.

Lo said that he is really bothered by the practice. "I have missed a lot of chances to attract some new supporters whom I believe would vote for me if I could reach out to them. But under the practice, my campaign is just limited," Lo said.

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