Mon, Feb 19, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Analysis: New electoral system marked by `inequality'

DISPROPORTIONALITY The pan-green and pan-blue camps arrived at the new system after considerable negotations. The result may entrench power for the latter

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Staff Reporter

In a momentous change to the country's politics, a new voting system for legislative elections is eliciting hopes for the formation of a more substantial middle ground in politics -- as well as worries that the nation's democracy will suffer damage, analysts said yesterday.

The new system will result in a 113-seat legislature, slashed from 225. Seventy-three legislators will be directly elected from a "single-member district," while 34 will be filled by parties who win more than 5 percent of the total number of votes cast.

Voters will cast two votes -- one for a regional candidate in his or her district, and one for a party -- in a system that replaces the current "single-vote, multiple-member district" structure.

"A major effect of the new system is to force parties to take a middle course, as it is unlikely that a party will win a single-member district by focusing only on a niche market," said Ting Jen-fang (丁仁方), a professor of politics at National Cheng-kung University.

Former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) recent remarks on Taiwan's status were a perfect example of the lure of the middle ground, Ting said, noting that Lee was trying to reassure moderate voters that they had no need to be concerned over the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) previously hawkish stance on independence.

Lee, the "spiritual leader" of the party, likened changing the names of state-owned firms or state agencies to include the name "Taiwan" to fascism, Nazism and communism.

The new system, however, is expected to damage small parties.

The pan-blue People First Party (PFP), which holds 22 seats in the current legislature, has allied with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which controls 90 seats, in the hope that it can retain its proportion of seats in the legislature.

In the pan-green camp, the TSU is demanding that eight of its 12 legislators be accepted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as joint candidates. The TSU has also been calling on the DPP to negotiate on combined tickets in other districts.

"If moderate voters can shed political indifference and become strong enough to overshadow extreme voters, the new arrangements will make for a two-party system," Ting said.

If moderate voters prevail, politicians would behave more rationally and avoid extremism, said Hung Yung-tai (洪永泰), a professor of politics at National Taiwan University.

"Under the multiple-member district, sometimes a candidate needed only 2 percent of the vote to win. When the cameras are on them, scuffles pandering to extreme voters break out quite easily. But such behavior would only do harm to parties in the new system," Hung said.

The independence versus unification debate has often dominated election campaigns, but Hung said that this would also change gradually.

"In the long run, parties need to take care of the problems concerning the vast majority of people, addressing issues that people care about and not those that they themselves prefer," Hung said.

The biggest worry for the new system, however, is the problem of disproportionality.

Some say that this disproportional representation might turn the desirability of forming a two-party system into an undesirable situation in which one party dominates.

According to the Central Election Commission, the average population in each new electoral district is about 305,000, not counting Aboriginal people, who have six reserved seats in the new system.

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