Fri, Jan 20, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Small political parties call for reform

FEEDING THE RICH:The Green Party Taiwan will get no subsidy because it didn’t meet the 5 percent threshold, but the KMT and DPP will receive NT$450 million in total

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Small political parties and civic groups yesterday called for amendments to the Constitution and reform of the electoral system in a bid to ensure fair political participation and competition.

Representatives from the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the Green Party Taiwan, the New Party, the People First Party (PFP), the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and Citizen’s Congress Watch attended a joint press conference in Taipei.

Citizen’s Congress Watch executive director Chang Hong-lin (張宏林) said Taiwan was entitled to a more diverse and active political system with its already diverse society and culture.

“Conventional wisdom argues that more seats for smaller parties would result in more chaotic situations in the legislature, but that is not correct,” Chang said.

Among the 11 political parties registered for Saturday’s legislative elections, the TSU and the PFP were the only ones — other than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — that passed the 5 percent threshold in the party vote in the legislative elections to become eligible to win legislator-at-large seats.

Chang said that, for instance, with 1.7 percent of the party votes, the Green Party Taiwan could have received an annual subsidy of NT$10 million (US$335,000) — which could be very helpful for the party’s development — if there weren’t a 5 percent threshold.

“The Green Party in Germany has become so strong because it has been receiving per vote subsidies from the government, and I think if the government lowered the threshold and helped smaller parties financially, it would help to make Taiwanese politics more diverse,” Chang said.

A total of 95 candidates from smaller parties failed to get their deposit of NT$20 million back for failing to pass the 5 percent threshold, while the KMT and the DPP received a total public subsidy of nearly NT$450 million, Taiwan Association for Human Rights vice president Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said, adding that this showed how the current electoral system “robs the poor to benefit the rich.”

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has proposed reviewing the single-member district system, which has created imbalanced representation and marginalized smaller parties.

The group yesterday called for the legislature to form a committee to embark on electoral reform, adding that the legislature should also propose a constitutional amendment to lower the 5 percent threshold for a party to be awarded a legislator-at-large seat, to lower the threshold to receive public subsidies of between 5 percent to 3 percent, and to increase the number of legislator-at-large seats.

Other proposals put forward by the group that were unrelated to a constitutional amendment included replacing the right to register in elections by paying a deposit with a petition and the creation of a transparent process when parties purchase advertisements.

Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉), a TSU legislator ready to be sworn in on Feb. 1, said her party caucus would propose a constitutional amendment during the new legislative session.

“We’ll push for electoral reform in respect of Taiwan’s multiple values and voices,” she said.

Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin

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