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Letter to Editor: Taiwan's recall mechanism needs an overhaul

After several failed recall attempts, it's time for Taiwan to amend the rules

Independent Legislator Freddy Lim

Independent Legislator Freddy Lim (CNA photo)

Sunday's double election results in Taipei and Taichung thankfully proves a positive trend toward electing and endorsing appropriate legislators to represent their constituents. Many of us breathed a sigh of relief as independent legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) survived his recall vote and Dr. Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀) successfully avenged the unceremonious unseating of Taiwan Statebuilding Party's (TSP) Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) and retained the seat under an alliance of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with TSP.

Disturbingly, there is still a very high proportion of voters in these electorates who still insist on voting against diligence, fairness, justice, and equality from their elected representative.

After as many recall and by-election votes since the last general election in 2020, Taiwan's electoral laws regarding recalls must be amended at the soonest opportunity to represent community expectations, and avoid being abused by those with ulterior motives. The repercussions of continuous revenge recalls initiated by KMT or pan-blue affiliated groups and persons since the successful recall vote against former Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-Yu (韓國瑜) have cumulatively cost the Taiwanese taxpayers NT$1.8 billion, and City Councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) of the DPP and Legislator Chen Po-wei their seats, while independent Freddy Lim and Kaohsiung City Councilor Huang Jie (黃捷) survived their recall votes.

Taxpayer funds should not be wasted in such a fashion to satisfy one's twisted motives for political and financial gain. This makes a mockery of our electoral laws and results of fair, transparent democratic elections.

Under current laws, the costs of initiating and staging the recall votes is not the responsibility of the initiating party, nor the person who initiates the motion. Therefore, those with ulterior motives to affect the Taiwanese political landscape can use the current recall laws at their will to remove politicians they do not like, particularly from smaller parties and independents. This is demonstrated no better by Taichung's Yen family, their patriarch Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), serial sore loser Yen Kuan-hen (顏寬恒) and their role in unseating Chen Po-wei to protect their family's business interests.

To protect taxpayer funds and maintain integrity, it would be highly advisable to level some proportion of financial and legal responsibility of such costs to the initiating party. In addition, there must also be stiff penalties (financial or otherwise) for false recall alliance forms that are submitted to the Central Election Commission by the initiating party. A disproportionate number of Chen Po-wei and Freddy Lim's recall alliance forms were proven to be falsified and even included forms filled by many who are no longer alive. This should not happen.

Finally, there must be a proportional amount of votes required to recall an incapacitated politician. I believe 25% of the most recent vote is far too low and does not represent an accurate voice of the constituency. While I feel at least 35-40% is a better representation, this must be debated in the legislature by our elected representatives and legal experts to ensure a fair and reasonable amendment, as if these laws are not amended appropriately, dedicated, high performing legislators like Chen Po-wei will continue to fall due to political infighting between legislative factions.

James Chen lives in Melbourne, Australia. He is a retail professional with a background in aviation and road transport. Chen's tertiary education was in business, marketing, and journalism, and he has a keen interest in railways, aviation, and Taiwan's political scene.

Updated : 2022-05-25 17:01 GMT+08:00