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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Taiwan News on Referendum/Polling Issue

Folks, this issue needs massive play....Taiwan News has a fantastic piece on the Referendum vote, in which 18 county governments run by the KMT have determined to defy the law and separate the legislative vote and the referendum vote.....below they point out that the KMT plans to scatter 50,000 "election monitors" around the voting booths to intimidate voters, and learn who is pro-DPP by seeing whether they vote on the referendum issue (most people who bother to vote will vote positively)...


Taiwan News

Stop subversion of secret ballot

The announced intention by the opposition Kuomintang and its 18 city and county mayors to implement a so-called "two-stage" balloting system for the January 12 Legislative Yuan and referendum election despite last Friday's decision by the Central Election Commission for a "single-stage" method may present Taiwan's democracy with a grave challenge.

Under the Central Election Law, the CEC is responsible for deciding policy on election processes and other related matters and the city and county election commissions, typically headed by the mayors or commissioners of such districts, are responsible for implementation.

While the actual layout of voting booths is the responsibility of local election officials, any arrangements cannot violate the process and procedures for voting determined by the CEC.

By a nine to four vote, the CEC resolved Friday to adopt a "single-step" voting format for the January 12 Legislative Yuan and the concurrent holding of two referendums.

Under the system, voters will collect four ballots for constituency and party proportional legislative ballots and two referendums, respectively a
DPP-promoted referendum on the repossession of KMT "ill-gotten" party assets and a KMT-sponsored "anti-corruption" initiative, and cast the ballots into four separate boxes.

However, the KMT has demanded a "two-step" format in which citizens will collect and cast referendum ballots separately after completing voting in the Legislative poll.

This system would be similar to that used in the March 20, 2004 polls in which two "peace referendums" initiated by President Chen Shui-bian were held in tandem with the presidential poll and were invalidated as neither received the necessary 50 percent turnout due to a boycott by the KMT and other pan-blue parties.

It should first be noted that single ballots or collection or single-step use of voting machines is the norm in most democracies and that the principle of the secret ballot, which is enshrined in Article 129 of our own Constitution, is consistently given far higher priority than the question of whether arrangements are made for citizens who refuse to vote.

A case in point is Australia, which requires that all citizens vote as a legal obligation of citizenship and imposes significant fines onrecalcitrants.

The government and the Democratic Progressive Party favor the "single-step" pattern to simplify the voting process for efficiency and to expedite easy, rapid and convenient participation by citizens in voting for both the legislative polls and the referendums.

Another clear intent is to reduce the effectiveness of vote buying or any forms of subsequent intimidation or punishment of voters and block "contract" vote buying by making it more difficult to monitor for whom voters cast their ballots.

Such reasons may not be entirely "disinterested" but the motivations to boost participation and protect universal, equal and secret voting are at least within the bounds of democratic ethics.

Big Blue is watching

On the contrary, the 2-stage process supported by the KMT camp would expose voters who wished to vote in referendums to public view, especially if the polling booths for the referendums were physically separated from the balloting for the legislative races or even put in different buildings.

Indeed, many voters who collected the referendum ballots on March 20, 2000 faced such obstacle courses or were even subject to heckling or even intimidation by pro-KMT voters or "monitors."

The KMT's clear short-term objective is to discourage voters from participating in the "party assets" referendum, even though polls show that an overwhelming majority of citizens, including "pan-blue" and nonpartisan voters, favor the return of its "ill-gotten assets" to the country.

But even more grave is the fact that the combination of "two-stage" voting and plans by the KMT to mobilize over 50,000 "election monitors," enough to assign three to each polling booth, will allow local KMT branches to collect detailed information on just whom in each voting precinct favors the DPP or KMT.

The "two-stage" format's structural exposure of the preferences of each and every voter to public view will undoubtedly undermine the fundamental democratic principle of the secrecy of voting and constitute a massive violation of the basic human and civic rights of all our citizens, no matter what their preferences.

Moreover, the fact that the coming presidential poll may well be the last opportunity for the KMT, at least in its current form, to "win back Taiwan" will leave open the possibility that citizens whose preferences have been so exposed will be vulnerable to all kinds of pressures and intimidation to either switch from "green" to "blue" or not vote at all on March 22.

Moreover, the "two-stage" system and its attendant monitoring will spur the use of "contract" vote buying by providing a simple and direct method for local party organizations to monitor "contract compliance" by observing whether the "bought" voters abide by the tacit referendum boycott.

Given the tight nature of the coming presidential race, the use of intimidation or vote-buying against "green" supporters, could well determine the result of the March 22 poll and allow the KMT to "win back" domination over Taiwan through the most undemocratic of methods.

If the KMT wins the upcoming legislative and presidential elections by trampling on the sacred democratic principle of the secrecy of the ballot box, it is quite possible that Taiwan will never again have free elections.

The KMT camp, led by the Harvard University law school doctorate and former justice minister Ma Ying-jeou, have adopted the attitude that the CEC or the DPP-led Executive Yuan cannot do anything to block their concerted effort to realize "one country, two systems" in our national elections.

We believe that there is absolutely no room for ambiguity on the part of the Taiwan government in defending our hard-won democracy with all the legal and political tools at its disposal against this open conspiracy to subvert the sacred democratic and human right of the secret ballot and thereby compromise our hard-won right of domestic and, quite possibly,national self-determination.

In addition, we urge all Taiwan citizens to consider whether a party that shows such disdain for our fundamental constitutional rights and the integrity of Taiwan's legal system merits an opportunity to impose its undemocratic rule on our 23 million people.


A great editorial.....the DPP needs to scream about the election monitors. And scream and scream. And we need to get the international media INVOLVED.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Morris Chang: Taiwanese Economy in Transition not Marginalized

The following article appeared in June in the Liberty Times, but is highly relevant to the ongoing debate on the state of Taiwan's economy and whether the government should heed the demands of foreign Chambers of commerce to remove the 40% investment cap and open up direct transportation links with China. Incredibly, the Taipei Times managed to overlook this important piece, so here it is in translation. Italics added to emphasize key points that contradict conventional wisdom about what is good for Taiwan.

Update: Chang apparently gave a very different speech to Amcham today, in which he compared Taiwan to 18th century China and advocated opening direct links and removing the investment cap.

TSMC Chairman Morris Chang said that he rejected the concept of Taiwan's marginalization at a seminar held by the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation. Chang argued that Taiwan has never been at the center, so how can it now be marginalized? He holds that Taiwan is in a period of economic transition and that the primary issue that Taiwanese businesses need to confront is the creation of a new business model, not the opening of direct links across the Taiwan Straits as the American Chamber of Commerce continually advocates.

"I really don't like the term 'marginalization.' As soon as I hear it, I just stop listening to what you say afterwards," Chang said brusquely interrupting Yin Yun-peng, the editor in chief of Commonwealth Magazine and Lung Ying-tai. Lung responded by saying that much of Taiwanese society was feeling anxiety over Taiwan's marginalization because Taiwan was being left out of the emerging ASEAN Free Trade Zone and the US-Korea FTA.

But Chang said that one should use terms precisely and that what Taiwan is really experiencing is 'political isolation.' The problem is that Taiwan's political isolation isn't something that happened overnight. Even if Taiwan was once recognized by more than 100 countries, it was still marginalized. The only time Taiwan was ever at the center of things was after World War II when Roosevelt chose Taiwan as an ally. If that hadn't happened, Taiwan wouldn't have any real power at all.

Bilateral trade agreements, Chang said, have only political significance. They have little economic impact. "Those agreements are more about face than reality." According to Chang, Taiwan's real problem is that its former competitive strengths have weakened or become irrelevant. In the 1990s, Taiwan had four major competitive strengths:

  • a strong work ethic coupled with low salaries and high productivity
  • Outstanding science and technology human capital
  • an entrepeneurial ethic of innovation
  • direct government interference to support for business

These have all weakened.

Lung argued and cited the view of the American Chamber of Commerce over the past few yars has been that the most serious problem Taiwan's economy has is opening up to China. Chang curtly replied that that is because American companies don't do R&D or innovate in Taiwan so their first priority is opening up to China. "But that is not the first priority of Taiwanese companies." The only point on which Chang agreed with Lung and Yin was that if political marginalization led the government to limit investment in China, it would be detrimental to the competitiveness of Taiwanese businesses.

In addition to competitiveness, Chang thought there were two other dimensions to the China issue that should be considered. First, national defense technology should remain secret. Second, although businesses moving offshore may cause the hollowing out of the Taiwanese economy, "in the long run, things should be liberalized. The government should not attempt to manage the offshoring of Taiwanese business because it is afraid of short-term pain." Chang suggested that in fact the government only places restrictions on a few industries and that many industries have already left, but that the public is spending too much energy discussing this issue of "no ability to produce." It would be better to open up than to waste time on this.


Thursday, November 08, 2007


Ma to Visit Japan

Ma is off to Japan later this month...

Taiwanese presidential front-runner Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Nationalist Party announced in an itinerary Thursday that he will visit Japan on Nov. 21-23.
Ma will arrive in Osaka on a Nov. 21 morning flight from Taipei and is expected to give a speech at Doshisha University in Kyoto, sources close to the presidential candidate have said.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


A Glimpse into Ma Ying-jeou's Economics

Election campaigns in the blogging era are great because they force politicians to show how stupid they are. Ma Ying-jeou gave a classic example the other day when he tried to show up the DPP administration's failure to impose price controls by saying that "Chiang Ching-kuo controlled oil prices. If the DPP can't do it, let the KMT do it."

The pro-Taiwan blogosphere had a field day. As this Executive Yuan chart shows (from Tseng Wei-chen), consumer prices spiked wildly under the younger Chiang's rule: 47.50% in 1972, 19.1% in 1979, and then 16.32% in 1981. The spikes in 1972 and 1981 were of course both direct results of the first and second oil crises. To the extent that Chiang did control oil prices, it was by subsidizing state-run industries at the expense of the taxpayer at a time when Taiwan's economy was not only state-directed, but also almost completely cut off from the outside world.

Ma's economic vision is a conservative one that looks back to the golden age of the 1970s and 1980s under Chiang. His objective, in other words, is to return to an era in which the state dominated a closed economy. But his gaffe on controlling oil prices shows how unrealistic this is. Taiwan's economy has been profoundly globalized during the past two decades, and the state simply cannot set prices as it once did.

What's more interesting is the profound disjunction between this unrealistic objective and the proposed means of achieving it. Remember that Ma's main policy proposals are allowing direct transportation links with China and removing the 40% investment cap. Just how is that going to get us back to the golden era?

China is not going to agree to the non-existent 1992 Hong Kong consensus and Ma will not have the political capital to accept the One China Principle without putting it to a vote. Even if he can, direct links with China mean more globalization and therefore less control over the domestic economy than we have now.

In all likelihood, what we will get is a lifting of the 40% investment cap. And everyone can see I'm sure how allowing what remain of Taiwan's industrial base to relocate to China will get us back to the good old days when the omniscient great man could control prices.



The Hillary Clinton Solution

The KMT has a pretty serious presidential dilemma: its candidate for the March election, Ma Ying-jeou, is clearly the inferior one. What's the solution? The Hillary Clinton approach....

Last week the Taipei Times wrote on the recent spat between Chen and Ma, this the latest scenelet in the long-running tactic of the DPP to portray Ma as weak. Chen said:

Ma should stop pretending that the consensus exists, Chen said, before criticizing the KMT for canceling a plan to delete the consensus from an internal document over pressure from deep-blue supporters.

Chen called on Ma to "have balls and be brave," adding that otherwise he would not be able to resist Chinese military threats if elected president.

Chen also said that Ma lacks a political ideology of his own.

Ma opposed the lifting of martial law, the abolition of Article 100 of the Criminal Code and was in favor of indirect presidential elections at a time when activists were pushing for presidential elections by popular vote, Chen said.
Veteran political blogger A-gu had the transation of thrust and riposte from the pro-KMT Chinese-language paper The China Times:

In the latest salvo in the war of words between [President] Chen Shui-bian and Ma ying-jeou, A-bian pulled all the stops in Tainan city today and during a speech said that a president needed balls and guts, that he could not retreat as soon as he met resistance, and attacked Ma for always beeing a step behind and standing on the wrong side. A-bian wants Ma not to keep dreaming the "China dream," and believes the Chinese Nationalist Party should remove "China" from their name.

Ma Ying-jeou's office shot back, saying President Chen wishes to be a suicide bomber, casually uses despicable language and wants to kill himself along with others, something the people will not accept.

Since Ma is widely perceived as weak -- typically, when I discuss politics with locals that is the one criticism of Ma that even his supporters agree with -- the DPP's approach is probably a wise one.

Ma's response also points up the KMT habit of hyperbole in describing Chen: as a Hitler, as Osama bin laden, and now as a suicide bomber. Note also that this is a description that won't resonate much for locals -- whereas Chen using a traditional insult to pick on Ma will probably have more force.

Most interesting is the KMT's constant attacks on Chen Shui-bian. Like Hillary for the Republicans, Chen engergizes the KMT base in a way that Hsieh does not. By keeping the focus on Chen, the KMT hopes to keep the Blue base stimulated.

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