Sun, Jan 13, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Legislative elections and referendums: Observers note calm atmosphere

ORDERLY AND ENTHUSIASTIC Unofficial international observers of yesterday's legislative elections also commented on the low number of young people taking part

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Unofficial observers from overseas praised the calm atmosphere and efficiency of yesterday's elections, although some commented on the low turnout rate among younger voters.

Member of the European Parliament for Hamburg Georg Jarzembowski, who came to Taiwan to observe the election, said the smooth way in which the voting process proceeded was an indication of the maturity of the nation's democracy.

"We did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Everything went as the polls have suggested," Jarzembowski said.

The election results signify that voters are dissatisfied with the incumbent government and are yearning for a fresh beginning to revive the economy, he said.

Jarzembowski, who heads the European Parliament's Taiwan Friendship Group, said he did not observe any misconduct at any of the polling stations he surveyed yesterday.

"The voters behaved just as we expected, orderly and enthusiastic," he said.

Jarzembowski said he was happy to see the candidates -- both winners and losers -- behave in a gracious manner.

Sebastian Dreyer, Taiwan Friendship Group secretary-general said the candidates had probably been on their best behavior because they knew their conduct in this election could influence the result of the presidential election in March.

Christopher Hughes, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, said the calmness of yesterday's elections was a "good thing, because in the past elections have been too emotional."

Hughes attended several election rallies and said groups of party supporters were relatively calm, even when rallies of opposing parties took place next to each other.

Gudrun Wacker, head of the Research Unit Asia from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said candidates' campaign platforms, especially in southern counties, were mostly localized and had concentrated on developing the region's economy.

Some graduate students from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) said there was a very low turnout among younger voters.

They said some students might have found it difficult to travel all the way home to vote.

One student, Christina Lin, said she was concerned to see a lack of involvement among young voters.

"Some of the students that I talked to did not plan to vote," SAIS student Andrew Publicover said.

The SAIS students said they were able to attend various election events and talk to candidates about their policies.

They said the trip helped them gain a better understanding of Taiwan's political climate, especially on the issue of national identity, cross-strait relations and the role of the US in China-Taiwan relations.

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