Sun, Apr 10, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Campaigners pan empty Aboriginal legislative seats

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Leaving vacated Aboriginal legislative seats empty denies Aborigines’ representation, campaigners said yesterday, accusing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers of seeking to delay reforms and advocating a wasteful by-election if a KMT Aboriginal legislator is stripped of their seat.

“If reforms are not implemented this term, we will be deprived of a legislator yet again,” said Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies chairman Oto Micyang Raranges, who is of the Amis people.

Prosecutors have sought to annul the election of KMT Legislator Uliw Qaljupayare amid vote-buying allegations.

If Qaljupayare — a member of the Paiwan people who is also known by his Mandarin name, Chien Tung-ming (簡東明), is stripped of his seat, this would be the third consecutive legislative term for which the number of Aboriginal legislators has fallen below the constitutionally mandated six.

According to Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) guidelines, by-elections for seats vacated by Aboriginal legislators can be held only if two of the three seats composing either of the nation’s two Aboriginal districts are vacated.

The Mountain Aboriginal District and Plains Aboriginal District are the only remaining national multi-member legislative districts, with the top three candidates in each district winning seats.

While Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have argued to pass reforms to allow “substitution” down the list of candidates if legislators vacate their seats, KMT legislators have called to allow by-elections or delay the implementation of reforms until the next legislative term to avoid unfairly benefiting DPP candidate Walis Perin — a member of the Sediq people who would be awarded the seat vacated by Qaljupayare if substitution were allowed.

Raranges said that the expense of holding a special by-election was unjustifiable given that both Aboriginal districts are “presidential” in size — with any by-election requiring polling stations to be set up across the nation.

Substitution would not benefit any particular political party in the long run, he said.

“Since 1994, there have been seven legislative terms, with 14 potential ‘substitutions’ across the two districts if bribery charges were proven. Based on Central Election Commission data, out of the 14 candidates who would have been awarded vacated seats, nine were KMT candidates, three were People First Party candidates and one was an independent. Only one DPP candidate would have been potentially substituted into a seat,” he said.

The KMT and other pan-blue parties and factions have dominated the Aboriginal districts almost exclusively since they were established as part of constitutional changes in 1994.

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