Mon, May 01, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Electoral proposal creates image of legislators as self-serving bureaucrats

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Many people were left wondering what lawmakers were thinking recently when they proposed constitutional amendments to alter the legislative electoral system when the newly revised system has yet to be implemented.

The legislature passed a constitutional amendment in August 2004 to adopt a "single-member district, two-vote system" in the election for the Seventh Legislature next year, and to downsize the number of legislative seats from the current 225 to 113.

In the current multi-member districts, candidates can get elected by winning the support of a small proportion of voters. But they will have to win the support of the majority of voters to gain a seat under the new single-member district system.

Given that the changes to the electoral system and the reduced number of seats will make it more difficult for legislators to be re-elected, the recent call made by legislators across party lines to rethink the new system has been widely seen as a self-interested one.

Those who initiated the proposal have, however, denied this accusation, saying that they are trying to encourage debate on the electoral system.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hsu Shu-bo (許舒博), who suggested a 164-seat legislature and multi-member districts with the number of members elected in each district being less than five, said that "the issue should not be demonized."

"If the public suspects us of being self-interested, then the number of legislative seats can remain at 113," Hsu said.

However, the number of seats filled by direct popular vote should increase from 73 to 90, and the seats on reserve for legislators at large should decrease from 34 to 17 accordingly," he said.

While insisting that a legislature of only 113 seats would lead to the centralization of power and a situation in which government policies would be manipulated by a handful of lawmakers, Hsu said that he could conditionally agree to back down on the idea of 164 seats.

"In a 113-seat legislature, each of the legislature's 12 committees would be composed of fewer than 10 legislators, and just two or three of the 10 legislators could have the final say on the committee's decision," Hsu said.

Hsu said that the law governing legislators' exercise of power should be amended in another way if the number of seats were to remain at 113 and that his suggestion of adopting a parliamentary system shouldn't be precluded from discussion.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水), who has opposed halving the number of seats in the legislature from the outset, said that the move would only cause damage to the "one vote, one value" principle of democracy.

"Under the new system, one legislator will be elected in Matzu, where there are about 9,000 voters. In Yilan County, there will also be one legislator, but he will represent the will of more than 460,000 voters. Is this in conformity with the `one vote, one value' principle?" Lin asked.

What was worse, Lin said, the new electoral system favors relatively developed counties or cities over less developed areas.

"For example, Taoyuan County is more developed than Yilan County. Under the new system, six legislators will be elected from Taoyuan, with each of them representing 290,000 voters, while in Yilan County, 460,000 voters will be represented by only one legislator," Lin said.

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