Sun, Jan 13, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Legislative elections and referendums: Smaller parties suffer a setback

LARGELY IGNORED The 5 percent needed to gain legislator-at-large seats was as good as `mission impossible' for smaller parties, analysts said

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was not the only party with bruises following the legislative elections yesterday, as smaller parties that had hoped to take advantage of the new "single-member district, two-vote system" also suffered a major setback.

In terms of district candidates, the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) fared best among the smaller parties, with Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) winning by a landslide by claiming more than 60 percent of the votes in Taichung County.

The NPSU's candidate in Penghu County, Lin Pin-Kuan (林炳坤), received more than 51 percent of votes, 10 percentage points more than his DPP rival Chang Kuang-fu (陳光復). NPSU Aboriginal candidate May Chin (高金素梅) also won a seat with 20,012 votes.

disappointing

The smaller parties' performance was similarly disappointing in the competition for legislator-at-large seats, with none of the parties -- the Civic Party, the Constitutional Alliance, Third Society Party, Green Party Taiwan (GPT), Taiwan Farmers' Party, Home Party, Hakka Party and NPSU -- getting more than 1 percent, when 5 percent was required to qualify for seats.

The Home Party, which received the highest percentage of party votes among the eight smaller parties, was favored by a mere 0.79 percent of voters, while at the bottom of the list, the Constitutional Alliance, received only 0.31 percent.

The GPT, which nominated candidates in almost all of the constituencies, suffered a big setback as the most votes one of its candidates secured was little more than 3,400.

GPT Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said the results were a reflection of the unreasonable voting system and election laws, as well as the nation's media, all of which are geared to the advantage of the two main parties -- the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

"In addition, the two-vote system was not explained to voters clearly enough for them to realize that they had the option to cast their party ballot to a third, smaller party," Pan said. "The 5 percent benchmark for legislator-at-large seats is too high for new, smaller parties. Voters did not vote for us because they thought parties with only one or two legislators would have no muscle in the new legislature."

Despite not securing a seat, the party ranked quite highly among the other smaller parties in various constituencies, and Pan said he appreciated the voters' support.

The party will continue to carry on its environmental protection mission, he said.

Taiwan Farmers' Party Secretary-General Hsiao Han-chun (蕭漢俊) shared Pan's concern that the voting system gave the larger parties an edge over the smaller ones.

"This is an election where winner takes all," he said. "Without a serious reform of the system, there is no chance for the smaller parties to survive."

Third Society Party Chairman Jou Yi-cheng (周奕成) echoed those views.

"It is also noteworthy how many people did not use their vote and dodged their civic duty," he said.

unstable

Analysts said the problem for the smaller parties stemmed from the fact that their main source of votes was an unsystematic and unstable source -- undecided voters who support neither the pan-green nor the pan-blue camp.

"When a voter supports neither camp, he or she may not vote at all, because they believe their vote counts for nothing," said Liao Da-chi (廖達琪), a political science professor at National Sun Yat-Sen University.

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