Sat, Apr 13, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Premier backs franchise reform

POLITICAL PARTICIPATION In a rare moment of inter-party agreement, Yu Shyi-kun said he supports KMT proposals for absentee ballots and for lowering the voting age

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday expressed support for proposed measures to lower the voting age and install a system for absentee ballots.

Wary of potential controversy, he suggested an incremental approach when seeking to realize these moves, however.

"I agree to lowering the voting age to 18 from 20 to allow students to take part in politics," Yu said in response to questions from KMT Legislator Huang Teh-fu (黃德福), whose party has advocated reform to woo younger supporters.

If put into effect, the proposal may increase the number of eligible voters by up to 800,000, many of whom favor DPP candidates, polls show.

The premier said that he found existing rules that deny students the right to seek elected office "unreasonable," recalling that in 1978 he was expelled by National Chungshing University for taking part in an election campaign.

Intended to free educational institutions from possible political interference, the same rules do not bar government officials, whether appointed or elected, from seeking education, however.

Huang, also a political scientist at National Chengchi University, panned the electoral codes as nonsensical.

The premier partly agreed, noting that, over the years, some candidates have had to quit school and later apply for admission after winning elections.

He also gave his approval to a KMT proposal whereby people do not have to return to their registered addresses to exercise their right to vote.

The main opposition party has said absentee voting would help protect the rights of overseas businessmen who cannot come home to vote because of their physical condition, work, studies or high transport costs.

The KMT estimates that 800,000 Taiwanese businessmen and their relatives living in China would benefit from such a measure.

Yu said he is receptive to the suggested changes but declined to promise that the measures will be put into effect in time for the year-end elections for Taipei and Kaohsiung mayor.

"It is better to seek consensus before taking any action to avoid antagonizing rival parties," the premier said.

On Thursday, Huang published an opinion poll showing that nearly 65 percent of respondents endorse the absentee-voting measure.

With Taiwan becoming more urbanized and modernized, people have increasingly opted to leave their hometowns to work in the cities. Their places of residence are not necessarily where their households are registered. To come home to vote, these people have to spend time and money on the journey.

Of the 15 million eligible voters for the 2000 presidential election, 2.3 million, or 15 percent, did not live at their registered address.

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