United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 4, 2015
Executive Summary: Will the 2016 presidential and legislative elections be combined and held simultaneously? That is the Central Election Commission's preference. KMT Chairman Eric Chu thinks that if a ruling party change takes place, a four-month "constitutional unattended window" will appear, and he considers it cause for concern. Tsai Ing-wen mocked this as a case of "yesterday pro, today con." She said the four-month unattended window is not a new problem, since it appeared during the 2012 election. She is only half right. Should the presidential and legislative elections be combined? If one thinks only about saving money, then one is missing the forest for the trees. When the nation has already been paralyzed, what's the point of saving a few hundred million NT?
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Will the 2016 presidential and legislative elections be combined and held simultaneously? That is the Central Election Commission's preference. KMT Chairman Eric Chu thinks that if a ruling party change takes place, a four-month "constitutional unattended window" will appear, and he considers it cause for concern. Tsai Ing-wen mocked this as a case of "yesterday pro, today con." She said the four-month unattended window is not a new problem, since it appeared during the 2012 election. She is only half right.
Should the presidential election be combined with the legislative elections? Two considerations come to mind. One. Cost and time. Combining the two would indeed lower costs. Voters would not have to return to the polls a second time so soon after the first. The CEC argues that this would both save money and labor. Naturally it advocates combining the two elections. Two. Political considerations. A popular presidential candidate is likely to prefer combining the two elections. A coat tails effect would give his party legislators a boost, and help more of his comrades get elected. Given current momentum, the DPP's advocacy of combined elections, and Eric Chu's opposition to them, are based on political calculations by both parties.
The problem is that legislators are elected in January. According to the constitution, they are sworn in on February 1. But the four year presidential term does not begin until May 20. This is what Eric Chu meant by the "four-month unattended window period". In earlier years, standard practice was to hold presidential and legislative elections separately. Legislative elections were held in mid-January. Presidential elections were held in late March. In 2012 President Ma sought re-election. The CEC combined the two elections for the first time. Ma Ying-jeou was successfully re-elected. Therefore the four month long unattended window problem failed to materialize. Tsai's claim that the unattended window was already a problem is not quite correct. The "constitutional unattended window problem” only appears during a ruling party change. If a president is re-elected for a second term, the problem never materializes.
Lest we forget, in 2012, shortly after Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected, US beef imports controversy, gasoline price and electricity rate hikes, the capital gains tax, and pension reforms all provoked a backlash. By the beginning of his second term, he was already battered and bruised. His popularity had already suffered a serious blow. Public opinion turned against him, so swiftly that people were stunned. This alerted people to the potential drawbacks of the four month unattended window problem. Now go further back. In 2008 a second change in ruling parties took place. Ma Ying-jeou was elected president in late March. On May 20, Chen Shui-bian formally handed over power. The time gap was less than two months. But during this brief gap, the Chen regime purchased a large number of paper shredders. With these he engaged in the wholesale destruction of official documents, including evidence. Over 30,000 documents were destroyed, not counting those we know nothing about. Chen did all this in a mere two months, creating a terrible constitutional discontinuity. Just imagine what a four month long discontinuity might have led to. Aren't the potential consequences worrying?
Moreover, Taiwan's democracy has become "election-oriented" rather than "governance-oriented". Under "election-oriented" politics, the political process is hijacked by the election process. As soon as the ruling and opposition parties finish fighting one election battle, they immediately move to the next one. Politicians care only about whether they win and they can win. Voters care only about who wins and who loses, not about which policy is adopted and how the nation is governed. In short, national development, rational decision-making, social construction, even the people's welfare, all come second. This sort of impatient, rash atmosphere prevailed just before the nine in one elections. Wen-Je Ko, Eric Chu, and Lai Ching-teh were asked every day whether they would run in the 2016 presidential election. Put simply, politicians are the stars in politics. The people are merely election tools. Unfortunately, voters on Taiwan are far less interested in sound governance than they are the worship of political idols. They are happy to serves as their election tools. The pursuit of novelty is the key to this issue.
Take the system in South Korea. To avoid long-term rulers from becoming corrupt and abusing their power, the South Korean Constitution limits the President to a single five year term. No second term is permitted. This encourages politicians to work as hard as they can to realize their goals as soon as they are elected. During President Roh Moo-hyun's term, he proposed amending the term to four years with one additional term allowed. He failed to gain the support he wanted. This shows that, the South Korean people demanded limits on presidential power.
Among Western democracies, those that prohibit second terms for their presidents are in the minority. But consider the situation on Taiwan. Consider the fierce blue vs. green confrontation. Consider the lack of democratic attitudes. Political parties engage in nothing but malicious obstructionism. Chen Shui-bian was scandal-ridden for over two years before his term of office expired. The Ma government's impossible situation has lasted nearly two years. Such vicious political battles and wheel-spinning, are a hundred times more serious than a "four-month unattended window period". They are the reasons why Taiwan remains mired in quicksand. Constitutional issues have been raised. Shouldn't we learn from Korea's presidency and institutions? Shouldn't they be a matter of consideration? Wouldn't they at least provide a reference point for the direction of our own institutional change?
Should the presidential and legislative elections be combined? If one thinks only about saving money, then one is missing the forest for the trees. When the nation has already been paralyzed, what's the point of saving a few hundred million NT?
比四個月空窗期更嚴重的事2015-02-04 01:39:32 聯合報 社論