Self-profiting lawmakers ganged up to adopt an “unfair” election law last week.A handful of reformists, alarmed by the increasingly sophisticated irregularities in voting, had introduced amendments to the antiquated election law, which, however, were rewritten to perpetuate – or even worse, encourage – “unfairness” in races for public offices.
For one thing, the new unfair election law allows candidates convicted of corruption and sentenced to ten years or more in prison to run so long as their conviction isn’t confirmed by the Supreme Court.The old law disqualified them, if they were so convicted and sentenced by an appellate court.Of course, such candidates have every right to complain against unfairness, because they are innocent until the Supreme Court holds them guilty, but unlike other democracies, Taiwan has no lack of politicians who try to stay out of jail by getting elected to lawmaking bodies.One of them is a veteran member of the Legislative Yuan, Yen Ching-piao who exercises an autocratic control over the faithful of Matsu or Goddess of the Seas at his native Tachia.In fact, he won his current three-year term while he was in prison.Now that the new law has given him a reprieve until after the last trial, Yen will be able to run for reelection, come January 12.That’s why the reformists call the now lawful reprieve the Yen Ching-piao clause in the new election law.
Another unfair clause raises the cap on campaign spending to NT$10 million per election.One rationale for more licit spending is that candidates spend over the limits anyway.It reflects the reality, which encourages contenders to outspend each other to win.One thing has to be made clear: A legislator can barely earn that much in authorized salary and allowances in three years.In other words, to get elected to the nation’s highest legislative organ is a money-losing venture.
Still another clause is truly unfair.It requires a candidate to put up NT$200,000 as deposit when he registers his candidacy.That deposit won’t be returned, even if he isn’t elected, making it impossible for cash-starved political parties to nominate candidates for Legislative Yuan membership at large.The new law requires a party to have not fewer than 12 nominees to run in as many single constituencies if it wants to field at-large candidates. The party therefore has to deposit at least NT$2.4 million.This unfair clause favors the two major parties, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang, defeating any possible burgeoning attempt to form a third force in Taiwan politics for the voters to choose between independence and unification with China.