Tue, Mar 25, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Post-Election 2008: Referendum process had many faults, analysts say

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The manner in which the referendums on entering the UN, held in tandem with the presidential election on Saturday, were conducted leaves much room for improvement, foreign observers said yesterday, adding that the entire voting process lacked the necessary secrecy and was not properly monitored by trained professionals.

The 50 percent voter turnout threshold may have discouraged voters from exercising their right and the system appeared designed to reward non-participants, said Cyd Ho (何秀蘭) of the Initiative and Referendum Institute-Asia during a post-election event organized by the Taiwan Democracy Foundation.

Referendums should be initiated by civic society on socioeconomic policies without the infusion of party politics, Ho said.

The Hong-Kong native said the government and advocates should help generate more public debate so that every view, regardless of socioeconomic status, is heard.

"Let the people, not the political parties, lobby each other. Voters must be well-informed on the issues," she said, adding that many Taiwanese voters had associated the referendums with support for a particular party rather than the issue.

Based on her observations, voter secrecy was also partly compromised because everyone could see who picked up the ballots and who did not, she said.

Voters should all have picked up both referendum and presidential ballots and voted for or against the referendum, she said.

Another participant, Zandro Rapadas, from the National Movement for Free Elections in the Philippines, however, said the act of not picking up a referendum could also be construed as the expression of an opinion.

Skool Zuesongdham, of the Thailand-based Poll Watch, said that at the polling station in Wulai (烏來), a handicapped woman was unable to vote in secrecy because she was carried on the back of a security official and was later accompanied by two electoral workers while she cast her vote.

Kingsley Rodrigo, a Sri Lankan observer from the Asian Network for Free Elections, said that there was an almost complete absence of trained observers -- both internationally and domestically -- to properly scrutinize the fairness and openness of the election.

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