Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Constitutional and Legislative Changes in Taiwan Journal

The Taiwan Journal has a couple of useful articles this month:

The Revitalized Vote
The constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislative Yuan in 2004, however, cut its own number from 225 to 113, lengthened legislators' terms of office from three to four years (in step with that of the president), adopted a new legislative election system and a new constitutional amendment process that requires legislative initiatives to be approved by Taiwanese voters through referendum. In June 2005, the National Assembly ratified the amendment package and, in a final flourish, agreed to abolish itself. It was hoped the result would be a cleaner, leaner and more professional political playing field, but familiar problems have lingered and new ones arisen, particularly for the next legislative election scheduled at the end of this year.

The recent amendments were a major step toward lightening the overlapping governmental structure designed to rule a territory far larger than Taiwan, and over which the KMT government had never really extended control before it came to the island in 1945. Now the Legislative Yuan is unmistakably the nation's only parliament as the Control Yuan's powers, such as supervising government officials and budgets, become increasingly limited, and its power to impeach the president or vice president, for example, has been transferred to the Constitutional Court under the Council of Grand Justices......

An Electoral Adventure

To those not familiar with the old system, let us explain. Each voter had one vote. Most voting districts had more than one seat. A large district might have as many as 10, and double that number of candidates. Voters would choose their candidate from the long list and when the votes were tallied, the 10 highest vote-getters were awarded seats.

The system had a number of anomalies. For example, not only were a party's candidates in competition with those of other parties, they were also in competition with each other. If a party ran too many candidates in a district it would dilute the vote each candidate received, thereby reducing the number of seats taken. The same applied to running a superstar candidate who might take too high a proportion of the available vote, pushing less popular members of the same party below the threshold for election. Selecting how many candidates to run was a psephologist's nightmare, as was persuading supporters to adopt voter equalization strategies to balance the votes candidates received and dissuading candidates from the same party from campaigning against each other or the equalization strategy itself....

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