Taiwan needs absentee voting

The following letter was published in the Taipei Times today. In the letter I suggest that Taiwan should adopt pre-poll and absentee voting to reduce the level of disenfranchisement in elections.

On the same day that voters turned out for the nine-in-one elections in Taiwan, there was also a state election in Victoria, Australia.

I followed both elections with interest and voted in my home state of Victoria.

Voters in both Victoria and Taiwan can be pleased about the way the elections were conducted and have a high degree of confidence in the integrity of the results.

One major difference between the two elections is that in Victoria almost 30% of voters cast their votes via pre-poll or postal vote.

Voters in Victoria also had the option of casting an absentee vote, i.e. voting in a district other than the one they were registered in on election day.

However, in Taiwan many people are denied the opportunity to vote because they cannot attend the polling booth near their registered residence on election day.

This leads to significant disenfranchisement of military and emergency services personnel, as well as university students, shift workers and other people living away from their registered residence.

Rather than informal arrangements such as a student association organising buses for students to travel home (University students, military members take steps to vote, Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2014) the Central Election Commission needs to implement pre-poll and absentee voting to ensure all Taiwanese have an opportunity to vote.

These measures could initially be trialled at by-elections before being adopted for nationwide elections.

Election results reflect deep concerns of Taiwan's citizens: Bruce Jacobs

The following commentary by Bruce Jacobs, Emeritus Professor of Asian Languages and Studies at Monash University, was originally published on The Conversation.

Voters assert themselves as Taiwanese in a warning to KMT

By Bruce Jacobs, Monash University

Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won an unprecedented landslide victory in the country’s local elections. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) won only one of Taiwan’s six largest “special municipalities” in voting on Saturday and this by a very narrow margin. Elsewhere, the DPP won unexpected victories in many counties and municipalities.

The best explanations for this unexpected DPP victory relate to the losing party. Like Australians, Taiwanese want their ruling parties to be able to govern themselves. The divisions between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have resonances in the KMT between Taiwan’s president (and KMT party chairman) Ma Ying-jeou, former vice-president and premier Lien Chan and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who have been quite open in their three-way mutual detestation.

In addition, parties that cannot govern themselves usually perform badly in policy and administrative terms. Recently, major food companies in Taiwan have used industrial oil rather than food oil in the preparation of foods. This has raised huge questions over the government’s ability to provide safe food for its citizens.

Ma’s government, which should be aligning with South Korea as a fellow Asian democratic state, became hysterical about the “certain” damage to the Taiwan economy when the South Koreans signed a free trade agreement with China. It turned out that the Taiwan government had not seen the text of the FTA nor had it done any research. Continue reading “Election results reflect deep concerns of Taiwan's citizens: Bruce Jacobs”

The battle for Taichung on social media

screenshot of Lin Chia-lun's Facebook page

Taichung is a key battleground in Taiwan’s local elections. Overall victory or defeat in the elections is likely to be judged on who wins the mayoral race in Taichung. Both major parties have a realistic chance of winning what is likely to be a close contest. Hence, they will be investing a great deal in their campaigns.

The closeness of the contest in Taichung makes it an ideal site for analysing and comparing the campaign strategies of the two major parties. In this post I have done some basic analysis of how the two mayoral candidates are using social media to get their message out to voters.

The battle for Taichung sees incumbent mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) competing against Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). These two candidates also contested the election for Taichung Mayor in 2005 with Hu the victor on that occasion.

Jason Hu has been Mayor of Taichung for thirteen years now, nine as Mayor of Taichung City and the past four as the Mayor of Taichung Municipality. Hu is also a Vice-Chairman of the KMT and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lin Chia-lung was the Legislator for Taichung No. 6 District until he resigned shortly before the election. He has previously served as  Director of the Government Information Office and Secretary-General of the DPP. Continue reading “The battle for Taichung on social media”

Foreign observers needed for election

I had a letter about the need for election observers published in the Taipei Times today. While I hope the forthcoming election will be trouble free, I note in the letter that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters have engaged in violent protests following election losses in 2000 and 2004. The risk of violent protests destabilising the political system and affecting the transfer of power should not be ignored.

It is disappointing to see that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not provided funding to European academics to observe next month’s presidential and legislative elections (“European election observers denied funding by MOFA,” Dec. 2, page 1).

The elections should be an opportunity to showcase Taiwan’s democratic development to the rest of the world.

DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has a good chance of winning the election. If Tsai is victorious, it will mark another transition of power and solidify Taiwan’s transition to democracy that began with the lifting of martial law in 1987.

However, one hopes the transition will be smooth and trouble-free. A look at Taiwan’s recent history suggests the possibility of trouble. Continue reading “Foreign observers needed for election”

Who will be Tsai's running mate?

A couple of months ago I wrote about the possible vice presidential candidates for both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). I correctly predicted that Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) would be the candidate for the KMT. However, the DPP is yet to select their candidate and there are a number of possible candidates who didn’t even appear on my original list.

It was expected that the DPP’s presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would announce her running mate this weekend. However, a report from CNA today suggests that Tsai may delay the announcement until October. Tsai is certainly keeping everyone guessing about who she will choose.

While a number of names have been mentioned there seems to be no certainty about who Tsai will pick. Some potential candidates who have been the subject of media speculation are listed below. Continue reading “Who will be Tsai's running mate?”

Possible DPP & KMT vice presidential candidates

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is set to be confirmed as the DPP’s presidential candidate in 2012. Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be the KMT’s candidate. Both parties are yet to select their vice presidential candidates. I have listed the likely contenders from both parties below with some brief analysis.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) – Su narrowly lost the primary and declared he had no interest in being the vice presidential candidate. However, he may still be persuaded to take the position.

Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) – the DPP’s presidential candidate in 2008 is still a key player in the party.

Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) – Su almost won the mayoral election in Taichung last year and is currently the DPP’s secretary-general. He is a strong campaigner and would be a good choice. Continue reading “Possible DPP & KMT vice presidential candidates”

Taiwan needs a Green president(ial candidate)

My letter in the Taipei Times today suggests that Taiwan needs a capital “G” Green candidate in the presidential election, not merely one who waves a green flag. The text below is the original unedited version of the letter that I submitted to the Taipei Times.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is currently conducting a series of debates to select its candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou is likely to be unopposed as the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidate.

Once the candidates are selected and the campaign gets underway the debate will be shaped by the agendas of the pan-blue and pan-green camps. Issues related to national security,  Taiwan’s relations with China and the economy are sure to be prominent in the campaign.

The Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan has thrust the issue of nuclear power into the spotlight. It is likely that the DPP’s candidate will promote a policy to phase out nuclear power in Taiwan. Whether they will actually be able to achieve this if they are elected to office is another question. Chen Shui-bian promised to stop construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant before he was elected in 2000. Ultimately construction of the plant went ahead though as Chen faced intense political opposition to his plan after he was elected. Continue reading “Taiwan needs a Green president(ial candidate)”

Combined elections might not be a good idea

An opinion piece by Hawang Shiow-duan (黃秀端) in the Taipei Times today points out some problems with the idea of combining the presidential and legislative elections. It begins by pointing out that combined elections are not the norm for country with semi-presidential systems of government.

Taiwan’s system of government is a semi-presidential one. Of the 55 countries with a similar system, Romania, Namibia and Peru are the only ones that have combined their parliamentary and presidential elections. The other 52 countries, including France, hold the elections on separate dates. One has to wonder whether the minority of countries that combine their elections have reached this situation without having given the issue deep thought. In Taiwan’s case, the attempt to combine the elections is certain to encounter several problems that will have to be resolved. Continue reading “Combined elections might not be a good idea”