Taiwan legislative elections and referendum

Copy of an email I sent to the EM list.


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!