Mon, Apr 18, 2005 - Page 3 News List

National Assembly elections may be a litmus test for PFP

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The upcoming election of the mission-based National Assembly will serve as an indicator of the PFP's popularity after the high-profile meeting between PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker said yesterday.

"The assembly election serves as the first litmus test of the PFP's approval rating, and the result will have an impact on its ability to bargain with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the year-end elections for county commissioners and city mayors," said DPP Legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水). "However, it is quixotic for the PFP to pin all its hope on the KMT."

The PFP has received a lot criticism from its supporters since the Chen-Soong meeting. Its change of heart on the constitutional amendment bill, which was passed by the legislature last August, also stunned its supporters and raised political eyebrows.

The party announced that its representatives in the assembly will vote against the constitutional amendment bill, which would halve the number of legislative seats, adopt a "single-member district, two-vote system" for legislative elections, abolish the National Assembly and enshrine the people's right to hold a referendum in the Constitution.

The party claims that the "single-member district, two-vote system" would worsen vote-buying practices and squelch smaller parties. The halving of the number of legislative seats would also result in the manipulation of legislation by a handful of lawmakers.

Hu Tsu-ching (胡祖慶), one of the PFP's 83 nominees for the Assembly and a political science professor at Tunghai University, however, said that he "conditionally" supports halving the legislative seats.

"The number of legislative seats in Taiwan is not too many, actually, compared to that of other countries," he said. "However, if the size of the legislature has to be trimmed down, the number 175 would be just right."

Hu also voiced opposition to the abolition of the National Assembly, saying that it would act as an "acid test" of China's "Anti-Secession" Law, possibly provoking Beijing to demonstrate its seriousness.

In addition, he said that the nation's democracy is not mature enough to let its people exercise direct democracy.

"Frankly speaking, I think our electorate is rather irrational," he said. "While the US and Germany have not yet held any national referendums, I don't think our people are more politically savvy than our American counterparts."

Hu's opinions might not count much, because the 300 assembly members will be asked to toe the line of the parties or alliances they represent and act as their rubber stamp.

During the election -- slated for May 14, voters will select a party rather than a candidate. The seats will be divided up proportionally among the parties based on their share of the popular vote.

Responding to Hu's arguments, Lin said that it is necessary for a democratic country to grant its people the right of referendum.

"The people would be asked to vote on constitutional amendments passed by the legislature, not on constitutional amendments themselves," Lin said.

If the assembly is not done away with, Lin said that it is bound to create more problems in the long run.

"It is meaningless to have one body, established in line with representative seats in the legislature, to validate something that has already cleared the legislature, because the body represents the will of particular parties rather than that of the people," he said.

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