There has been no shortage of analysis of the recent election results by Taiwan bloggers. Michael Turton, The Only Redhead, Jerome Keating, A-gu, bent and Tim Maddog have all posted their opinions. Now after a long period of contemplation it is time for me to put forward a few of my ideas.
The 2008 Legislative Yuan election was the first using the new electoral system. It was agreed to by both major parties so the DPP can hardly claim that it was unfair, but the election results have highlighted the problems in the new system and the need for further reform.
The key features of a future electoral system should be that it doesn't allow any single party to gain a super majority and it ensures that minor parties can gain representation. This ensures a plurality of representation and prevents any single party from gaining too much control.
The New Party and TSU gained 3.95% and 3.52% of the vote respectively but failed to gain a seat because they didn't get past the 5% threshold. However, with 34 seats, 3% should be sufficient for a party to gain a seat. Voters who voted for these parties can rightfully feel disappointed.
I am no expert in political science. However, coming from Australia preferential voting was something I have always considered quite normal yet it is not widely used. Preferential voting ensures that people can vote for minor parties without their votes being wasted. The present system in Taiwan discourages people from voting for minor parties. The amount of votes cast for minor parties doesn't necessarily provide an accurate reflection of their actual support.
The system also needs to ensure that the number of seats more accurately reflects the proportion of votes. The single member electorate system means a party can gain a much larger percentage of seats than they have obtained votes. A greater level of proportional representation is desirable.
In the Netherlands, the political parties first develop a list of candidates — through an internal democratic system that represents a mixture of US party caucuses and primaries.
The list is headed by a prominent party member, but — and this is essential — also has candidates who represent the different parts of the country.
In that way, if the particular party has done its homework, the party list represents a balance from the different regions and even factions within the party.
On voting day, the voters generally mark the box of the person who heads the list and the seats are allocated on the basis of the total percentage of the vote the party receives.
In that way, there is no discrepancy between the percentage of the vote and seats allocated to any particular party.
The "twist" is that voters have an alternative to giving what is essentially a "party vote" to the person who heads a particular party's list.
Voters may instead choose to make a "preference vote" by specifically naming a candidate lower on the party list, and if that candidate receives more preference votes than the total number of valid party votes divided by the total number of seats for that party, he or she is elected.
Local favorites can therefore still be elected, even if the party primary might not have put them in a high position on their list.
The Dutch system creates the possibility for new entrants and smaller parties to win seats, enhancing democracy because new and different voices are heard. [emphasis added]
While Taiwan might not necessarily adopt the Dutch system it needs to make a wider study of different electoral and voting systems.
Perhaps I am too idealistic. Now that the KMT has such a large majority in the legislature there is no incentive for reform. Maintaining the status quo suits it fine and if Ma Ying-jeou were to occupy the President's Office then the Legislature would be all powerful.
The only real possibility for reform is if the DPP holds on to the Presidency and some sort of deal is struck to deal with the deadlock that has existed between the Legislature and the Executive during Chen Shui-bian's Presidency. I don't hold out much hope personally. Remember that Chen Shui-bian appointed a bi-partisan cabinet when he was first elected in 2000. There might be some initial rapprochement, but the legislators intent on wielding their power would sooner or later revert to stonewalling tactics.
The path ahead for democracy in Taiwan is certainly a rocky one. I don't think a magically improved electoral system is going to appear anytime in the near future. However, I think it is important to put out these ideas and promote discussion.