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. Continue reading

Taiwan steady in Freedom House rankings

Freedom in the World 2001 map of Asia

Freedom House released its Freedom in the World 2011 report yesterday. The report’s key finding was that freedom declined globally for the fifth consecutive year. Freedom House noted that authoritarian regimes like those in China, Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela continued to step up repressive measures with little significant resistance from the democratic world.

Taiwan’s ranking was unchanged from last year. Taiwan scored one for political rights and two for civil liberties to retain its status as “free”. Taiwan’s scores were the same as South Korea and Japan. The Taipei Times has some comments about Taiwan from a researcher at Freedom House.

“Taiwan remained one of Asia’s strongest democracies,” Sarah Cook, Asia research analyst and assistant editor at Freedom House, told the Taipei Times by e-mail yesterday.

“Municipal elections held [on Nov. 27] were widely viewed as free and fair, despite a shooting at a rally the evening before the polls,” Cook said. Continue reading

Without judicial reform there will be more injustice

On 12 November 2010 the High Court found the Hsichih Trio not guilty of charges of murder and robbery. Many hoped this finally marked the end of the case that has seen three men spend almost twenty years of their lives dragged through the courts and facing the death penalty. However, this week the prosecutors filed another appeal in the case again taking it to the Supreme Court.

The prosecutors’ case is based on confessions extracted under torture. There is no physical evidence that the three accused were at the scene of the crime. Despite this the case has been the subject of 13 trials and retrials. The entire case highlights multiple problems in Taiwan’s justice system.

Since the KMT returned to power in 2008 President Ma Ying-jeou has on numerous occassions cited the importance of judicial reform. Yet, apart from the removal of a few corrupt judges, there seems to have been no progress and judicial rights have gone backwards. The cases involving former President Chen Shui-bian have also highlighted many procedural problems in the justice system. There is also concern that the verdicts may have been influenced by political pressure in the lead up to the five cities election. (See my letter to the Taipei Times raising questions about judicial independence.)

2010 has also seen the return of the death penalty in Taiwan with four men executed on 30 April ending a four and a half year unofficial moratorium. Unless more substantial action is taken on judicial reform and the abolition of the death penalty any claims that the Ma government makes about improvements in human rights will have no substance.

Amnesty International released a public statement on the Hsichih Trio case on 10 December 2010 which was also Human Rights Day. The full text of the statement is below.

Continue reading

A new generation steps forward in the elections

DPP rally in Taichung

There has already been some excellent analyses of the Taiwan five cities election by Michael Turton, Nathan Batto and Bruce Jacobs. I just want to add a few points to the discussion.

While there was no clear victor in the elections, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have more to celebrate than the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the DPP will be disappointed that they didn’t pick up an extra mayoral seat, they did boost their overall vote and showed that they have a very good chance of winning the presidential election in 2012. Continue reading

More election campaign posters

The five cities election (五都選舉) will be held on Saturday 27 November. As a follow up to my previous post on election campaign posters in Taichung I want to post a few more photos that I have taken over the past few months in various places. More photos can also be found in the “Five Cities” Election Campaign Posters gallery at my Taiwan photo gallery site.

Taichung goes global - Hu poster

Jason Hu (胡志強), Taichung Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate for Mayor of Greater Taichung, is using the slogan “Taichung goes global.” I’m not sure which train he’s riding. It’s definitely not the Taichung MRT!

Poster for Su Jia-chyuan in Taichung

Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate for Mayor of Greater Taichung, is putting out the message that he can do things that Jason Hu has failed to do. Continue reading

DPP beats KMT in social media campaign

Screenshot of DPP website

In the lead up to the local elections in 2010 I wrote a post about the use of social media by politicians in Taiwan. I noted how the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was far more active online than its counterpart, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Screenshot of KMT website

I have gathered some data about the use of social media by the mayoral candidates in the five cities election (五都選舉) taking place on 27 November. All candidates are using several forms of online communication as part of their campaign. This includes websites, blogs, Plurk, YouTube, flickr and Facebook. Links to these sites are clearly shown on the front page of the KMT and DPP websites. This is shown in the two screenshots in this post.  Continue reading

Questions about judicial independence

I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today on the topic of judicial independence. The letter was written after the Taipei District Court handed down a not guilty verdict in Chen Shui-bian’s financial mergers case. However, after I sent the letter Chen was subsequently found guilty by the Supreme Court in the Longtan land deal case. An excellent article by J. Michael Cole in response to the Supreme Court decision asks the all important question, Was the judiciary independent?. My letter is pasted below.

An independent judiciary is a key foundation of democracy. So is the principle of being innocent until proven guilty.

However, the response to the not guilty verdict in the case of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) handed down by Taipei District Court on Nov. 5 shows there is still a lack of respect for these important principles in Taiwan. Continue reading

Prediction market for the five cities election

Election campaign posters in Taichung

The five cities election (五都選舉) is exactly one month away. On 27 November voters will go to the polls in the newly merged and upgraded special municipalities of Kaohsiung, Tainan and Taichung as well as Taipei City and Taipei County (which will be renamed Xinbei City/New Taipei City). The latest numbers from National Chengchi University’s Prediction Market Centre give some pointers to the likely results.

Greater Kaohsiung

  • Chen Chu (DPP) 64.1
  • Yang Chiu-hsing (Ind) 26.5
  • Huang Chao-shun (KMT) 8.7

Greater Tainan

  • William Lai (DPP) 85.0
  • Kuo Tien-tsai (KMT) 9.4

Greater Taichung

  • Jason Hu (KMT) 67.0
  • Su Jia-chyuan (DPP) 31.5 (Su is not actually listed, price is for “other”)

Taipei County (soon to be renamed)

  • Eric Chu (KMT) 49.4
  • Tsai Ing-wen (DPP) 50.6

Taipei City

  • Hau Lung-bin (KMT) 45.5
  • Su Tseng-chang (DPP) 51.5

Continue reading