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Cabinet resolve key for fair vote

Cabinet resolve key for fair vote

We support Monday's decision by the Executive Yuan to firmly declare its resolve to ensure a smooth Legislative Yuan election and referendum ballot on January 12 with the single-step voting process that would most protect the constitutionally protected right of secret ballot and to back that resolve with action.
The controversy triggered by the refusal of the 18 mayors of the opposition Kuomintang to abide by the November 16 decision by the Central Election Commission to adopt a single-stage process has truly gone on long enough.
Monday's declaration by Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Ching-chun that the CEC would refer local election officials who continue to take action for a "two-stage" system for prosecution on charges of obstructing freedom to vote and incitement to commit criminal offenses and administrative sanctions and the related order by National Police Administration to all police to protect the rights of citizens to vote in secret were absolutely necessary to ensure a smooth and fair election January 12.
Yesterday's decision by KMT Hsinchu City Mayor Lin Cheng-tse to resign from the his post as chairman of the Hsinchu City Election Commission in favor of a CEC appointee signals that the government's firm stance will have substantive impact.
Under the CEC mandated system, voters will collect and cast four ballots for constituency and party preference legislative ballots and for two referenda, namely DPP-promoted plebiscite on the repossession of KMT "ill-gotten" party assets and a KMT-sponsored "anti-corruption" initiative, in a single process. However, 18 KMT city and county mayors have insisted that their districts will implement a "two-step" format in which citizens will collect and cast referendum ballots separately after completing voting in the Legislative poll.
The obvious reason underlying the KMT's insistence on the "two-step" system, including plans by Taipei City to hold voting for the Legislative election and two referenda in separate rooms, is simply to block the Democratic Progressive Party -backed referendum mandating a law to ensure the repossession of the KMT's ill-gotten party assets from attaining the 50 percent quorum.
The anti-democratic nature of this strategy, which aims to annul the validity of the referendum result regardless of how actual voters cast their ballots, is recognized not only by the DPP but by prominent international non-government organizations devoted to the study and promotion of direct democracy.
As noted in the latest (2008) edition of the "Guidebook to Direct Democracy" published by the Switzerland-based Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, "turnout thresholds over 25 percent should be avoided" precisely because they allow direct democratic proposals to be rejected by a combination of "no-votes" and non-votes and thus "assist those groups which refuse to get involved in a public democratic debate and instead call for the ballot to be boycotted" and thus "promote undemocratic behavior."
Indeed, the root of this crisis is precisely the undemocratic character of the "birdcage" Referendum Law approved by the Legislative Yuan in November 2003, whose design was clearly aimed to prevent initiatives from getting on the ballot through the arduous two-stage petition process, including vetting by a Referendum Review Committee controlled by the legislative majority or the KMT, and a stiff threshold of 5 percent of the electorate along with the undemocratic 50 percent turnout quorum.
As mentioned in an earlier editorial ("Stop subversion of secret ballot" on November 20, 2007), an even more insidious aspect of the KMT push for a "two-step" voting process is the transparent intention to force voters to expose their party preferences by separately having to ask for referenda ballots, thus undermining the constitutional right for a secret ballot.
Since the pan-KMT camp is effectively boycotting both referenda, voters who collect referenda ballots will be identifiable as favoring the DPP and thus vulnerable to future "persuasion" in the run-up to the March 22 presidential election, while persons who leave after casting legislative ballots can be assumed to have voted for the KMT, a feature that can serve as confirmation for "contract" vote buying.
No legal legs
KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou and his party have responded to the decision by the DPP-led executive branch to enforce Taiwan's election laws by declaring that local authorities will continue to resist and by claiming that election workers will not bear criminal or administrative responsibility for disobeying the CEC's resolution since a December 21 Legislative Yuan resolution in favor of the "two-step" voting process "resolved" the "dispute."
Besides the fact that election workers will follow Ma's advice at great risk since he is not yet president, the content of the Election and Recall Law approved by the Legislature itself makes it absolutely clear that there is no legal dispute, since Article 11 of the election law explicitly grants the CEC the right to "direct and supervise" the voting process and Article 8 clearly states that local election committees "belong to and are subordinate to" the CEC and are not legally subject to the orders of city or county governments.
Ma's attempt to "make fools" of grassroots election workers and voters is further invalidated by the fact that the CEC's authority is fully democratically and legally legitimate since all of the laws upon which its actions rest were approved by an elected Legislative Yuan, ironically always controlled by the KMT itself.
Ma's appeal to "resist" the CEC's resolution for a "single-step" voting process is nothing less than a call to undermine the integrity of Taiwan's democratic, if still very imperfect, legal system in favor of the "old-time" KMT preference for "personalistic" rule which allowed the former authoritarian regime to change the legal rule book in its favor any time it wanted.
Although belated, the issuance of official instructions by the CEC and the Ministry of the Interior should make it crystal clear to local election commissioners and grassroots election workers that the DPP-led government has the legitimate legal authority and capability to ensure that the "single-step" voting process, which can better ensure smooth and secret voting, is implemented.
The result of this controversy also shows that the DPP, despite its numerous faults, is the only party whose governance can ensure democracy, legality and stability for Taiwan's citizenry.


Updated : 2021-05-13 14:36 GMT+08:00