Combined elections should be put to referendum

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today. The letter suggests holding a referendum on combining the presidential and legislative elections. I believe this is one of several referendums that could be held in conjunction with the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections. The most important one would be a referendum to amend the birdcage provisions of the Referendum Law.

While the idea of combining the presidential and legislative elections (“KMT mulls idea of combined legislative, presidential election,” Jan. 18, page 3) is good in theory, the means of achieving it should respect democratic principles.

With the legislative election now less than a year away, it is not the time to start changing the rules. Furthermore, any changes in the dates of elections that involve extending term limits would seriously harm voters’ democratic rights.

A dangerous precedent was set with the extension of terms in the recently upgraded special municipalities and should not be repeated. Important decisions about elections should not be made for short-term political gains. Instead, they should aim to improve democracy in the long term.

I suggest that referendums could be held in conjunction with the upcoming legislative election with the question, “Do you agree that the legislative and presidential elections should be held simultaneously?”

If the referendum is passed, then the first combined election could be held in March 2016. This would necessitate extending the term of the next legislature by two or three months. However, this would be implicit in the referendum question and would therefore have the approval of voters.