[Election-Methods] Taiwan legislative elections and referendum

Augustin beginner2005 at masquilier.org
Mon Jan 14 22:59:07 PST 2008


Jan asked me to post here my comments about the Taiwan Legislative 
elections last Saturday.

I assume that the interested reader knows at least the basics about 
Taiwan politics, so I won't explain much that can be found on 

Also, http://www.taipeitimes.com/ is a good source of information in 
Post election issue:

For those interested, I will create (in Chinese)
http://minguo.info/taiwan/   (link will become active in a couple of 
weeks from now)
which will be the equivalent of the existing USA version:


1) comments on the legislative election.
  a- stupid old system
  b- stupid plurality system
  c- stupid party (DPP)
2) comments on the 2 referendums.
  a- stupid 50% rule.
  b- stupid party (KMT)
  c- stupid pick the ballot rule.
  d- stupid citizens

1) comments on the legislative election.

The legislature was halved, from 255 seats to 113 seats. The KMT 
barely lost a seat and they have 2/3 of the seats in the new 
legislature. The DPP lost big time, and smaller parties have all but 
disappeared. :(

Also, this election was the first under a new voting system.

a- stupid old system

There used to be several seats per district, and they had a crazy 
election system. Voters could only vote for one candidate, so that 
several candidates from the same party had to compete with each 
other. E.g. 4 KMT candidates, 4 DPP, 2 PFP, etc. would compete for 5 
seats. A common strategy for the different parties, was to evaluate 
the vote percentage they were likely to get, and to ask voters to 
evenly spread their votes among the party's candidates according to 
the last digit of their ID card, or to their month of birth, etc... 
8-| !!

That system allowed for a limited amount of proportionality. Some 
minority (and controversial) candidates could get elected with a 
minority of votes. Thus, 5 parties were present in the old 
legislature: the KMT and the smaller PFP and NP on the blue camp, and 
the DPP and the small TSU on the green camp.

b- stupid plurality system

This system is gone, and we are now a single seat per district system, 
using plain plurality voting. In addition, the voter can cast a party 
ballot to elect some legislator-at-large, insuring a certain dose of 
of proportional representation *between the two major parties*.

Thus, for the legislative election only, the voters had to cast 2 
ballots: one for their own representative, and one for a party. 

c- stupid party

I am not sure who initiated the voting system reform. From what I read 
in the Taipei Times, the DPP at least supported this reform because 
they wanted to strengthen the two party system (in order to get rid 
of the annoying sister party in the green camp). 
If that's so, then the DPP deserve their loss, however much I regret 
the KMT's win. 
They shot themselves in the foot by making the wrong electoral reform 
for the wrong reason.

2) comments on the 2 referendums.

In my country (France) referendums are a common thing and accepted. In 
taiwan, it's still a novelty and the very fact of having a referendum 
or not is still a hot political issue.
(In fact, the scandal in France is when we do NOT get to have a 
referendum. We voted NON to the European Constitution by referendum 
two years ago, and now the new government will ratify the barely 
amended constitution via the 2 legislative chambers united in a 
congress because they want to avoid another NON from the population 
by referendum!!)

The KMT, including the party leader, presidential candidate and likely 
future president Ma Ying Jeou, has always been distrustful of the 
population. Ma has apposed (in the 1990s) a popular vote for the 
presidency. The president was until that time elected by the National 
Assembly. He has also opposed the legislation on the referendum... 
which finally passed through the legislature sometime in 2003 but in 
a very distorted shape. 

I am very angry when I think about how referendums are conducted in 

a- stupid 50% rule.

For the result of a referendum to be valid, at least 50% of the 
*registered voters* must participate. I.e. if at least 50% of the 
registered couch potatoes stay at home, the referendum will fail even 
if the vote expressed show 90% +  support to the referendum item.

Thus, the surest way to kill a referendum is to stay at home.
Also, all those registered voters who genuinely don't care about the 
referendum one way of the other (e.g. the disinterested couch potato 
group of people), are all automaticall counted in the NO camp, 
whatever the question asked. !!!

How much more undemocratic can that be??

b- stupid party

Of course, that 50% rule is used to great effect by the party opposing 
the referendum.
During the first ever referendum (at the same time as the presidential 
elections in 2004), the KMT opposed the initiative by the president 
Chen (if only for the sake of opposing him). 
The 2004 referendum was a way for the Taiwan people to protest against 
the 800+ communist Chinese ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan.

The blue camp, always quick to defend the mainland Chinese interests, 
asked for a boycot of the referendum. 

Thus, most people voted YES, but not enough people participated and 
the referendum was invalidated. 

c- stupid pick the ballot rule.

Have you heard about the secrecy of the ballot?
Why do we have polling booths, were we can privately cast our ballot 

The anti vote-buying measures are strict in Taiwan. For example it is 
forbidden to bring a cell-phone into a voting booth or any other 
camera or video recording device. 

Yet, the presidential and referendum poll (in 2004) and the 
legislative and referendum poll (last Saturday) take place at the 
same time, at the same place. 
But we have *distinct* ballot papers distributed at different desks. 

Thus, by standing within the polling station, only by observing people 
and looking at whether they were going to pick up their referendum 
ballot, you could guess which party they would vote for.
Citizens picking the ballot were most likely supporters of the 
pan-green camp, and those who didn't were pan-blue party supporters.

Secret ballot???

d- stupid citizens

The Taiwan citizens lost a very good opportunity to have a very clear 
shot at dirty politicians. 
A caring and clever citizen should have voted YES to each of the two 
referendum questions that were asked last Saturday. 
Those who voted, did vote YES... but again, we have that stupid 50% 
participation rule...

Let's go back a bit to understand the enormity of the opportunity that 
was just lost.

The KMT has been for a long time (and may still be) the *richest 
political party in the world*. They ruled the country for 50+ years, 
and for some probably innocent reasons, they didn't make much 
difference between party assets, and national assets. 
Of course, when the democratization process began, they made sure that 
assets and real estate were registered in the name of the party. 
That's including prime location real estate at the very center of the 
capital, right across the street from the presidential palace (the 
party headquarter!). 

The KMT never came clean on the topic of "stolen assets". But in cases 
where the situation was getting too hot, they promptly sold at 
grossly bargained prices some huge real estates complexes, so that 
they wouldn't have to give it back to the State. 

This has been a hot topic ever since Chen became president, in 2000. 
Unfortunately, he never disposed of a majority in the legislature to 
pass a bill to have a proper audit made on the KMT party assets.

So, this year they tried the referendum route, asking the citizens if 
a commission should be formed to investigate the matter, etc.

That  was the 1st referendum question, initiated by the DPP.

Not to be outdone, the KMT came up with their own referendum question.

The integrity of the president Chen has been questioned for a long 
time. His family has actually been investigated in a series of 
bribery scandals, including his wife, and his son in law. The son in 
law was actually found guilty, but I'm not sure: I have not followed 
the story very much. 
Heavy suspicions still linger on Chen's wife, and Chen himself. 

So, the referendum called for an investigation committee to be set up 
to investigate the people at the highest echelon of power, and their 
family, clearly targeting Chen and his family. 

But the fact is, the KMT didn't really want their own referendum to 
pass. For the people to vote in their referendum article, it would 
also imply that they would also vote in the DPP-initiated referendum. 
Obviously, they didn't want an audit of their stolen assets to be 

So, the official recommendation from the KMT: boycot the two 

Obviously, the right thing to do would have been to vote YES to the 
two referendums. Let's get rid of dirty politicians, whatever party 
they come from!
It was a great opportunity to have the laundry done. An opportunity 
for the citizens to send a message to the leaders of the two parties: 
get your acts together, be clean, etc...

But the stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid citizens, blinded by 
negative propaganda by the pro-blue media against Chen, failed to 
recognize that the KMT has a huge past (and present) of dirty and 
corrupted behavior. They don't see a referendum as a means of 
democratic expression, but as a dirty and corrupted tool created by 
Chen, and as such, each referendum ballot cast (whatever the question 
and whatever the answer) is, for them, a vote of confidence for 
Chen. ! 

So, by not participating in the referendum, they actually killed both 
measures that any intelligent person should have supported.

Did I mention that the people are stupid?

So, this time like in 2004, we could observe which people went to pick 
the referendum ballot, and which only voted in the presidential 
election. Mostly green camp supporter for the formers, and certainly 
a blue-camp supporter for the latter. 

Here is a telling incident:
One person got confused upon entering the polling station. A doubly 
stupid KMT supporter, he went on to pick the referendum ballot. Upon 
realizing his "mistake", he tried to return the ballot to the 
election officials who refused to take it back. Since he certainly 
didn't want to cast it, he tore the ballot into pieces, which is a 
crime according to the local law. Well, I didn't hear that this voter 
got prosecuted for this. :-/  But this incident is indicative of the 
blind hatred of the supporters of one party against the other party. 

What a missed opportunity.
How sad!


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