Ballot Flashing Pledge: DPP Flagrantly Violates Rules of System
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 3, 2014
Executive Summary: Seated among high-ranking officials of the DPP, green camp candidates
for elective office in Kaohsiung recently signed a “Ballot Flashing
Pledge.” They agreed that if elected, they “flash their ballots” during
the city and county council speaker elections, to prove that they voted
the party line. Failure to fulfill the pledge would lead to expulsion
from the party. It would also make one the target of a recall
initiative. This move by the DPP reveals its determination to achieve
“total rule.” Alas, signing such a pledge and submitting to compulsory
ballot flashing, is a serious violation of the principles of democracy
and the rule of law.
Full Text Below:
Seated among high-ranking officials of the DPP, green camp candidates for elective office in Kaohsiung recently signed a “Ballot Flashing Pledge.” They agreed that if elected, they “flash their ballots” during the city and county council speaker elections, to prove that they voted the party line. Failure to fulfill the pledge would lead to expulsion from the party. It would also make one the target of a recall initiative. This move by the DPP reveals its determination to achieve “total rule.” Alas, signing such a pledge and submitting to compulsory ballot flashing, is a serious violation of the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
The nine in one elections are one month away. Yet the DPP has made this advance arrangement. Clearly the DPP leadership is determined to seize total control over the Kaohsiung City Government. It nurses vast ambitions. Local government speaker and deputy speaker elections often involve the ugly phenomenon of vote buying. But blue and green camp vote buying is merely the pot calling the kettle black. Neither comes out looking particulary good. The DPP failed to nominate candidates with any character. It has failed to impose party discipline. Now it is ordering candidates to sign a "ballot flashing pledge," to prevent them from straying from the party line. It has led representative government down the primrose path. It has twisted the meaning of the law so that it can then violate it. It has exploited technical loopholes. It has opportunistically trampled over democracy.
According to parliamentary rules of procedure, votes on personnel appointments are usually conducted in secret. Votes on issues are usually conducted out in the open. In the former case, this avoids pressure, threats, and inducements. In the latter case, this demonstrates political responsibility and political spirit. The ROC "Local System Law" Article 44 expressly provides that: Directly Administered Municipality City Councils, County and City Council Speakers and Deputy Speakers, shall be elected or recalled by Directly Administered City and County Council Members by meabs of secret ballots." This is the reason why.
Legislative Yuan elections also use secret ballots. But when the ruling and opposition parties want to prevent party members from deviating from the party line, they resort to inventions such as "technical ballot flashing.” This has already undermined the rule of law. The DPP is requiring Kaohsiung City Council candidates who have not signed the “ballot flashing pledge” before the election to sign a "resignation and renunciation of authority pledge." In effect, the whim of the party has trumped the rule of law. How is this any different from organized crime syndicates that require aspiring members to sign agreements indenturing themselves to the gang? Yet the DPP is resorting to such measures merely to prevent party members from voting against the party line. This is both unscrupulous and horrific.
Local city and county councils have a long history of poor discipline. Thirty years of democratization on Taiwan has yet to raise the standard of local politics. In the final analysis, party politics bears no relationship to party ideals. During the speaker elections following the recent five cities elections, party members against the party line. Parties demanded ballot flashing, especially in Kaohsiung and Tainan. In Tainan, the KMT expelled 10 members who voted against the party line. The DPP expelled three. As a result, independents became the largest force on the Tainan City Council. In Kaohsiung, 66 council members were implicated. Among these, over 50 accepted plea bargains. Another 12 were indicted for "leaking secrets.” More than three years have passed. But only one person was sentenced to five months' imprisonment. Seven are still awaiting trial. One person was acquitted. This is why the law is subject to so many different interpretations, Many council members are utterly indifferent to the legal penalties for ballot flashing. In fact, prosecuting ballot flashing by invoking "leaking secrets" cannot convict suspects of vote buying. As a result they receive only a slap on the hand for serious crimes.
How can vote buying by local city and county councils be stopped? Three solutions are available. In terms of party politics, we must nominate candidates of moral character. Party discipline must prevent voting against the party line. This is the most basic way in which to clear the air. In terms of criminal prosecution, vote buying by council members must be prosecuted more vigorously. Sufficient evidence must be gathered to indict offenders for vote buying, and not merely ballot flashing. We must not flinch in the face of politics. In terms of politics, we must decide whether to amend the Local Government Act, and whether speaker and deputy speaker elections should use secret ballots. If we choose the latter, we have already compromised. It will merely make bribe takers exempt. The standard of local politics will be even more difficult to raise.
Ironically, in August the Legislative Yuan implemented the Legislative Yuan Oversight Authority. The DPP trumpeted the principle of "no party ballot tracking, not ballot flashing.” It assumed an air of self-righteousness. The DPP legislative caucus accused ruling KMT legislators who flashed ballots of "violating legislative autonomy," and of "violating the spirit of independent voting." It angrily warned President Ma against "interfering with Legislative Yuan voting." Are ballot flashing and independent voting truly that important? If they are, they why are DPP candidates now being forced to sign "ballot flashing pledges?" Conversely, if the KMT has no consistent position on secret balloting, how can it oppose the DPP's compulsory ballot flashing?
Returning to our original point, certain issues must be clarified. For speaker and deputy speaker elections, what should elected officials do? Should they exercise their own free will, or act in accordance with the wishes of their parties? Secondly, when voters cast their ballots, must council members vote for their own party's speaker and deputy speaker candidates? Also, if council members refuse to flash their ballots, as in green camp member Chii Chang's case, do political parties have the right to nullify the election results, and demand that council members ignore their constituents' expectations?
Political parties are unable to impose party discipline. Yet they are eager to trample over the laws to impose their will. This is not the proper path to democracy. Tsai Ing-wen and Chen Chu owe the people an explanation. They opposed this practice over the past three months. Now however, three months later, they are cracking the whip, forcing party members to engage in the very same practice.
2014.11.03 02:09 am