Despite having only three legislators, the People First Party (PFP) yesterday almost succeeded in pushing through a resolution demanding autonomy for Aboriginal townships under special municipalities, if Legislative Speaker Wang Jyn-ping (王金平) had not voted to break the tie.
The redrawing of administrative districts in 2010, which saw the mergers of Taichung city and county, and Kaohsiung city and county, and their transformation into special municipalities, deprived Aboriginal residents of the right to elect their own administrative chiefs.
Under the Local Government Act (地方制度法), residents of townships, sub-units of counties and provincial-level municipalities the right to vote to elect township mayors and representatives, but for special municipalities, the administrators of sub-units and districts are appointed by the mayor. A long-term appeal to exempt Aborigines from the latter clause has largely been ignored — until the vote yesterday.
With 12 abstention votes, mostly from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, the vote on the PFP proposal was tied at 43 to 43, before Wang voted against it to break the tie. Aside from the PFP, Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmakers voted in favor of the proposal.
PFP Legislator Lin Cheng-er (林正二), an Amis Aborigine who initiated the proposal, said that passage of the proposal would have reinstated the rights of Aborigines — an urgent issue especially as Taoyuan County is expected to be upgraded into a special municipality by the end of 2014.
Taiwan has 30 Aboriginal administrative areas, five of which are administered by special municipal governments after they were upgraded in 2010 — Wulai District (烏來) in New Taipei City (新北市); Heping District (和平) in Greater Taichung; and Maolin (茂林), Taoyuan (桃源) and Namasiya (那瑪夏) districts in Greater Kaohsiung. Fusing Township (復興) is next in line after Taoyuan County is upgraded.
KMT whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said his caucus had not yet decided its stance on the matter.
“We asked our caucus members to vote against the resolution because the issue should be deliberated thoroughly under a law regarding Aboriginal autonomy and not just a resolution,” he said.