Friday, January 11, 2008

The Bad Party and the Small Party: The Single Constituency, Two Ballots System

The Bad Party and the Small Party: The Single Constituency, Two Ballots System
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 10, 2008

In 2005, the constitution was amended for the seventh time. The electoral system was changed to a single constituency, two ballots system. The United Daily News expressed mixed feelings about the amendment at the time. On the one hand, we know that the single constituency, two ballots system has defects. It leads to localization, to domination by local party bosses, and to a loss of diversity. On the other hand, we also maintain that a single constituency, two ballots system is necessary. Only such a system can enable Taiwan's politics to transcend extremism and divisiveness.

The two political ailments bedeviling Taiwan are extremism and divisiveness. The main cause is the former multiple constituency, single ballot electoral system. A large electoral district could yield a large number of legislators. As few as 10,000 to 20,000 ballots was enough to elect a single legislator. This provided an mileu in which extremists could operate. Political demands and political styles became radicalized. Smaller parties could survive in such an environment. Decisive minorities led to political divisiveness. The lifting of martial law was followed by 20 years of extremism, divisiveness, and political instability. This led to political deadlock. The single constituency, two ballots system may help replace extremism and divisiveness with moderation and reconciliation.

The single constituency, two ballots system will encourage moderation and discourage parties that adopt an extremist posture. Under the "multiple constituency, single ballot" system, first only a minority behave radically. Examples include the "Three Stooges" in the Democratic Progressive Party. Later, the entire party found itself hijacked by a handful of extremists, the way Chen Shui-bian has hijacked the DPP today. The party deviated from the middle way. The Democratic Progressive Party, under a single constituency, two ballots system, is about to undergo its severest test.

Chen Shui-bian's campaign tactics are totally out of character wtih the single constituency, two ballots system. Chen's "Blues Excluded" opinion polls used during the DPP pary primaries violated the principle of the middle way. Chen's campaign theme of divisive hatred has moved even farther from the spirit of the new system.

If you carefully observe the way the Democratic Progressive Party is campaigning during this year's legislative elections, Chen Shui-bian is the only person adopting his extremist approach. Candidates produced by the "Blues Excluded" opinion polls have clear political colors and extreme political goals. But even they have been low-keyed in both their words and deeds. For example, When Chen Shui-bian launched his anti-Chiang campaign, hardly any DPP legislative candidates chimed in. As we can see, a single constituency electoral system has an immediate moderating effect on political agendas and political styles. Chen Shui-bian's campaign tactics are an anomaly, and cannot be considered the norm.

DPP candidates for the legislature are reserved. Can they repair the damage done to their party by Chen Shui-bian? This will be the key to the DPP's election results. Will the single constituent, two ballots system rein in an extremist political party? The Legislative Yuan elections will give us a clue.

The second effect of a single constituency, two ballots electoral system is that it moderates political divisions. Because it adopts a system of "coexistence," it adversely affects smaller parties. Smaller parties will now find it hard to win electoral district seats. As a result they are attempting to win non-constituency seats. So far however, polls show few voters expressing a willingness to vote for smaller parties.

In the past, a number of smaller parties successfully fulfilled their transitional roles. But their subsequent performance disappointed voters. The People First Party betrayed the Pan Blues with its secret "Bian-Soong Meeting." The TSU held the DPP hostage until last month. Lee Teng-hui even referred to Chen Shui-bian as "crazy." Voters have had it with "critical minorities" blowing hot and cold. They want a political reshuffling. That is why the outlook for smaller parties' is bearish.

Between the Bue and Green camps, the smaller parties will have a relatively greater impact on the KMT than on the DPP. Among the 12 smaller parties, the only one that can affect the DPP is the TSU. But all the smaller parties can affect the KMT. These include the New Party, the Red Party, the Peasants' Party, the Third Party, and the TSU.

Whether voting for smaller parties "wastes" votes has become a hot topic. The threshold for smaller parties to win seats in the Legislative Yuan is very high. They need 5 percent of the vote. That equals 500,000 to 600,000 votes. In other words, if one of the Blue or Green camps' smaller parties receives "Five percent of the vote minus one," that could "waste" 500,000 to 600,000 votes. Not only will the smaller party not get any seats, it could cost the larger party in the same camp seats. Voters will inevitably be wary about "wasting" votes by casting their ballots for smaller parties.

The implementation of a single constituency, two ballots system is an opportunity to shift the political climate from extremist and divisive to moderate and conciliatory. Taiwan's political climate has degenerated. Whether it can be salvaged by adopting a middle course and by a political reshuffling remains uncertain. But if we continue toward extremism and divisiveness, we will be marching towards a dead end. That is why the single constituency, two ballots system may not be a cure for what ails Taiwan politically, but it will at least provide short term relief.

2008.01.10 04:03 am


台 灣政治迄今的兩大絕症是「偏激」與「分裂」,主要導因於過去的複數選區一票制。由於一個大選區可選出多名國會議員,甚至只須一兩萬票即可出線,於是給了走 偏鋒者操弄的空間,政治訴求及風格皆趨「偏激」;而小黨在此制中亦有存活的空間,皆以「關鍵的少數」自詡,政局遂趨「分裂」。經歷解嚴後二十年偏激與分裂 的政治動盪,使政局陷於內耗空轉;而單一選區兩票制的主要效用,即是欲以「中道」與「整合」,來救治「偏激」與「分裂」。

「單一選區兩票 制」的第一個效用,在於鼓勵「中道」,用以淘汰走「偏激」路線的「惡黨」。「偏激」的形成,起初只是因少數人走極端,如「三寶」時代的民進黨;到了後來, 整個黨卻被少數極端分子挾持,如民進黨今日被陳水扁綁架,整個黨遂偏離「中道」。因而,民進黨今年所受單一選區兩票制的考驗,最為嚴峻。


然 而,若仔細觀察今年民進黨立委選舉的手法,幾乎只聞陳水扁一人操作極端議題,卻鮮見區域立委候選人旗幟鮮明地標榜極端路線;即使以排藍民調出線的候選人, 其競選言行,亦較往日收斂甚多。例如,陳水扁「去蔣拆匾」,幾乎未獲民進黨立委候選人的呼應。由此可見,單一選區對政治訴求及風格之「趨近中道」,已有立 竿見影的功效。陳水扁的操作是個異數,不能視為此制的常態。





投 給「小黨」,有否「浪費」的風險,已成熱門話題。小黨想要贏得立委席次的門檻相當高,需有五%的得票率,即約五十餘或六十餘萬票的得票數;換句話說,如果 操作不當,藍綠陣營的任一小黨若獲得「五%減一票」的選票,即可能形同投了近五十或六十萬張「廢票」;非但小黨自己不能獲得任何席次,且可能會相對影響同 色系大黨(國民黨/民進黨)損失不分區席位。得失相較,怕「浪費」選票,選民對投小黨不免有戒心。

單一選區兩票制的實施,是使政局由「偏 激/分裂」,趨向「中道/整合」的契機。台灣政局敗壞到今日這種地步,即使政局重返中道與整合尚不知是否有救;但倘若繼續偏激、分裂下去,則必無生路可 言。準此以論,單一選區兩票制雖非對台灣政局病症標本兼治的處方,但畢竟有其階段性的功效。

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