Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Legislative elections and referendums: ANALYSIS: Analysts predict low voter turnout in legislative polls

TOUGH LUCK The new legislative system was designed by the main political parties with their interests in mind and will make it harder for small parties, one pundit said

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Supporters of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative candidate Justin Chou eat noodles after the opening of Chou's campaign office on Taipei's Shezi Island yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

Getting voters out of the house and to the polling stations for Saturday's legislative elections may be one of the biggest challenges for the two dominant political parties, analysts said yesterday.

Under the new single-member district and two-vote system (單一選區兩票制), the turnout rate is expected to be low because voters can foresee the electoral result in certain constituencies, said Wu Chung-li (吳重禮), a political researcher at Academia Sinica.

"Some constituencies have only two candidates competing for one slot. The game is pretty much set in some districts because of the electoral structure," he said.

The presidential election in March could also contribute to a low turnout rate, Wu said, as some voters pay more attention to the presidential poll than legislative elections because they believe the presidential poll is more important.

The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) campaign strategy is clear, Wu said. They are trying to link the legislative elections to the presidential poll and define Saturday's electoral results as a "thermometer" for the March election.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is divided over the impact of the legislative polls on the presidential election, with some arguing that a poor showing at Saturday's elections would help the party win the presidential election because of sympathy votes.

Others, however, contend that an election defeat in the legislative elections would have a domino effect on the presidential poll.

The final week before the elections is key, Wu said, adding that he expected to see the KMT and the DPP engage in "regional mobilization" efforts.

In other words, he said, the two parties may resort to the traditional scheme of vote-buying.

While the new electoral system is supposed to be an improvement on the old system, Wu said that it actually exacerbates some problems, including vote-buying.

Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, said that the new system did not solve the old problems of vote-buying, partisan politics and unprofessional legislators.

Chao said he thought the two bigger parties would have a hard time getting voters to turn out and cast ballots, mainly because of public ambivalence.

While the new electoral system will promote two-party politics, Chao said voters do not seem to trust the two biggest parties because of their performances have been "unimpressive."

On the one hand, voters are unhappy with the lackluster performance of the DPP administration, but on the other hand, they do not think the KMT has done a good job as an opposition party, he said.

"Voters, who are disappointed at the infighting between the two parties would rather stay home," he said.

The support base of the two parties, however, will still come out and vote, Chao said, adding that the DPP and KMT are expected to make all-out efforts to court undecided voters in the final week of the elections, possibly through bribes.

But Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), chairman of the Taipei Society, said that voters' indifference to the elections has more to do with their dislike of the bickering between the two bigger parties than the new electoral system.

"How do you expect voters to be enthusiastic about the elections when what they see on TV or in the newspapers about the elections is all personal attacks or political maneuvering," he said.

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