火曜日, 9月 07, 2004

File under "Taiwanese Politics"...

2004 has already distinguished itself as one of the most eventful years in the history of Taiwanese politics. In the past eight months, we've seen:

--A very divisive, bitterly contested presidential race, in which incumbent Chen Shui-Bian won against challenger Lien Chan by 0.228% of the vote. (Approximately 300,000 votes were considered invalid, mostly because the opposition KMT/PFP coalition passed a measure severely limiting the kind of votes that would count. Previously, the paper ballot just had to show voter intention. Now, it doesn't count unless one--and only one--stamp is in the box under the face of the candidate.)

--An assassination attempt on the president on March 19, a day before election day. Lien Chan et al. claim that Chen Shui-Bian faked the entire thing to gain sympathy votes. That's unlikely, as there doesn't seem to be many Lien supporters who actually changed their mind because of Chen's wounds. Instead, Lien's supporters were so wound up about the possibility of a staged attempt that they: 1) turned out in droves 2) pissed off Chen supporters with their accusations, and they turned out in droves. As the Taiwan presidency is won by a plurality in the popular vote, the 319 event energized the base on both sides.

--Calls for recounts from Lien Chan and the KMT. Lien Chan and Soong Chu-Yi both ran in the 2000 presidential race; they split the 60% "pan-Blue" vote and lost to the 40% "pan-Green" Chen. After four years of waiting, Lien and Soong partnered up, thinking their 60% should send them straight to the Presidential palace. Instead, they lost by a Jessica Parker-thin margin. The "Blues" raged, raged at the dying of their political dreams and surrounded the Presidential Palace in protest.

--The recounts. It pains me to think of how many lawyers were hired to oversee the counting. Alas for Lien, a majority of the contested invalid ballots were actually for the incumbent. Chen's "pan-Green" coalition relies heavily on uneducated seniors, who didn' t know the new rules. (Example: Some old ladies liked to stamp on their candidate's face instead of in the little box.)

--A lawsuit filed by Lien Chan, asking the Supreme Court to declare the election invalid anyway. His reasoning is that the election should not have gone forward after the 319 shootings. According to the law at that time, however, elections only stop when a candidate is dead. Chen, as much as Lien Chan wishes otherwise, is not dead.

The lawsuit is still in the courts, though, and a decision should come out in September.

--The establishment of a "319 Truth Commission" by the opposition coalition (which holds a majority in the legislature). This isn't surprising (Taiwanese politicians love establishing commissions). What is surprising, though, is that the legislature gave itself all sorts of powers. It commands prosecutors to report to the commission, promises to produce a result in three months, and will be able to overturn court rulings that it doesn't like. In other words, bye bye independent judiciary. The premiere vetoed the "319 Truth Commission" measure and asked the Supreme Court to rule it unconsitutional. We'll see.

--Most important, though, is the recent amendment of the constitution to cut the number of legislators in half. Taiwan will be switching to the Japanese system: every voter gets two votes. You vote for your local representative, and then you vote for a party. Thus, half the legislators will be directly elected, the other half seated based on each party's proportion of the second vote.

This amendment will change the electoral landscape of Taiwan. Basically, we'll be transitioning from a multi-party system to a two-party system. The smaller parties might get seats from the "proportion system"; however, the reduction in available seats means that those from smaller parties will never be directly elected. A current problem is that aborigines and the Fujian province islands (with people who feel closer ties to China) are really overrepresented. We'll probably be seeing the gerrymandering opportunity of a lifetime.