Monday, October 11, 2010

How Can the DPP Oppose Absentee Voting?

How Can the DPP Oppose Absentee Voting?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
October 11, 2010

The Ministry of the Interior is planning to implement absentee voting for the 2012 election. This will permit police officers as well as workers and students living far from home to cast their ballots at the nearest polling booth. This is a progressive measure designed to ensure peoples' political rights. Who knew it would meet with vehement opposition from the Democratic Progressive Party, which accused the KMT of "consolidating control" over military and police personnel in order to influence the outcome of the election.

The DPP's reaction unwittingly revealed three of the party's unspoken attitudes. First, the DPP has an obstructionist attitude. It never considers the merits of KMT policy proposals. It simply opposes them out of sheer spite. Its attitude is utterly irrational. Secondly, the DPP has a self-contradictory attitude. Normally it invokes "democracy" as if it were apple pie and motherhood, But whenever the Republic of China's democracy stands in the DPP's way, it demeans that same democracy as illusory and insubstantial, It treats it as something to be manipulated at its own whim. Its attitude is flagrantly self-contradictory. Thirdly, the DPP has a reactionary attitude. Absentee voting increases public participation in political affairs. It constitutes progress in electoral politics. And yet the Democratic Progressive Party shrilly opposes this move to uphold the right to vote.

The DPP's third attitude is the most noteworthy. Democratic Progressive Party obstructionism, motivated by either sheer spite or partisan political calculation, is old news. But absentee voting would constitute a tremendous convenience for so many. It would advance democratic reform on Taiwan. Yet the DPP stridently opposes it, even though it can offer no legitimate reason why. This shows how debased the DPP's conception of democracy has become. It is so debased the DPP does not realize it has become a force for political reaction. One fiasco after another during eight years in power, led the DPP to forfeit any vestige of integrity or justice. It has apparently even forsaken its belief in the pursuit of progress.

Most people, needless to say, understand the need for absentee voting. They understnd the convenience it offers. Each time an election rolls around, millions of people are forced to commute back and forth between the north and south. Individuals are physically fatigued. The transportation system is subjected to an enormous burden. If citizens living far from home are allowed to vote at the nearest polling station, it will reduce the burden on society. It will also increase political participation. Advanced nations implemented absentee voting decades ago. Democracy took root on Taiwan years ago. Is it really not possible for the balloting and vote-counting system to take this simple step forward? Besides, scholars have been wondering. Isn't it unconstitutional for the government to deny people their right to vote, merely because they live too far from the polling stations, or because their duties prevent them from getting away?

In fact, the Interior Ministry's absentee voting proposal is far too limited. For example, a million or more Taiwan businessmen live on the Mainland. Even with direct cross-Strait flights, it would be difficult to transport all of them back to Taiwan to vote. In short, many people have effectively been deprived of their right to vote. This is unfair, and seriously distorts our system of democratic representation. But intense opposition from the DPP, plus technical problems yet to be fully overcome, have ensured that the Ministry of the Interior automatically excludes registered voters living on the Mainland from any "mail in balloting system." This effectively deprive millions of Republic of China citizens and other overseas citizens of their right to vote. The currently proposed "absentee ballot" system merely allows voters on Taiwan to cast their ballots closer to where they live. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party opposes even this. It is simply incomprehensible.

Why is the Democratic Progressive Party opposed to increased political participation? Because it assumes that Mainland and overseas compatriots, as well as military and police officials, are more inclined to vote for the Blue Camp. Therefore as the DPP sees it, the voting threshold for these citizens must never be lowered. In other words, the DPP's intent is to reduce the total number of voters. The DPP thinks that as long as it retains its die hard supporters -- the less mobile members of society -- it stands a chance of defeating its larger rival. In short, the DPP is a political party that pins its hopes on winning office, on its ability to deny people their basic rights. Is this not pathetic? The DPP has been unable to appeal to a broader voter base. That is also why it has been unable to transform itself. Is the DPP truly unaware that this constitutes a crisis of democracy?

When Yu Shyi-kun was premier, he praised absentee voting. He said it "enhanced the legitimacy of the government," and "reduced the cost to society." But as we know, once the DPP and KMT changed places, the legitimacy of the government and the cost to society immediately ceased being relevant. In democratic nations, ruling party change is the norm. If political parties hope to gain popular support, they must continually engage in self-reflection and self-encouragement. They must attempt to advance both themselves and the nation and society as a whole. If they consider only their own interests, and stubbornly obstruct what is good for democracy, such conservative and reactionary behavior does not merit the adjectives, "democratic," and "progressive."

Imagine a nation in which millions of citizens are not permitted to cast a ballot or have a voice. How can the public mandate not be distorted? We call upon the DPP. Remove your hands from the mouths of the people! The image of the DPP suppressing their rights is simply too ugly for words.










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