Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Caning for an At-Large Seat

One reason Taiwan's politics are filled with grandstanders is that grandstanding gets attention, which gets votes. Although the new legislative districting system is supposed to eliminate that, the tactic remains useful.

Thus the suggestion that sex offenders be caned that was mooted yesterday by a DPP femme legislator. I'm not going to comment on how stupid that was; I am sure the blogosphere will be filled with wonderful snark today. Note, however, that this was coupled with a threat against the DPP's political heavyweights (emphasis mine):

At a press conference in the legislature yesterday, DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) demanded that presidential contenders declare their stance toward the proposed amendment immediately.

She also called on lawmakers to back an amendment to the Sexual Assault Prevention Law (性侵害防治法) that includes the provision on caning.

She said she would publicize the names of presidential contenders who did not back the amendment, adding that she hoped it would pass cross-party negotiations this week.

Proposing provocative public policy? Penalizing Presidential pretenders? It's the P-word: Primary. Hsueh Ling is neither stupid nor fruitcake. As my pal Jason pointed out to me, the redoubtable A-gu listed her among the DPP hopefuls for an at-large seat (parties are granted at-large legislative seats proportional to their score in the election -- if a party wins 45% of the elected seats, they get 45% of the at-large seats). Moreover, half the at-large seats go to the Fair Sex. The DPP is making noises about settling the at-large seats by election somehow, instead of by backroom deals, the usual method.

Hence the publicity grab by Hsueh Ling -- she's positioning herself for the at-large primary by the tried and true method of running "against" the party elites while grabbing an issue that no one could object to, punishing rapists -- a classic "woman's" issue. Thus the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again: it was thought that the new legislature would lead to fewer unseemly displays by legislators to get elected, but instead, the penchant for publicity stunts appears to have simply shifted to the competition for at-large seats. Hsueh is ahead of the curve, but look for more fun stuff to follow as we approach the election.