New NGO in Taiwan urges adoption of negative voting
A group of political and financial figures in Taiwan, headed by former Democratic Progressive Party chair Shih Ming-teh, has initiated an unprecedented campaign to allow negative votes in elections.
Voting rights in Taiwan remain incomplete, Shih argued Sunday at a function supporting the campaign after the group's application for the establishment of a non-governmental organization, named Negative Vote Association, was approved by the Ministry of the Interior.
The idea of allowing "no" votes in elections, which he described as "very progressive and original," was first proposed by several "well-known intellectuals with successful careers," Shih said in answering questions from reporters. "I was sold, and it is a brilliant idea," he said.
Shih said citizens of the Republic of China are endowed with the powers of election, recall, initiative and referendum, but since the ROC was established in 1911, "the only power that has been truly used is that of election."
"It has not been easy to exercise the powers of recall, initiative and referendum," Shih said, and even now, the power of election is only "half used."
He explained that under existing laws, voters can only cast ballots in favor of a candidate in an election and must abstain or cast an invalid ballot if they find neither candidate appealing.
Allowing voters to vote against a person running for office would empower them to use their ballots to express their objection to a candidate and complete the people's power of election, Shih said.
He also believed that negative votes could help raise voter turnout and limit the election subsidies paid to individual candidates.
Under existing election regulations, candidates who receive more than 5% of all valid votes are entitled to a subsidy of NT$30 (US$0.95) per vote. But if the negative vote system is put in place, the negative votes for a candidate would be deducted from the positive votes received, yielding a lower net vote count, Shih said.
Asked about the proposal, deputy interior minister Jonathan Chen said the ministry had a "positive" view of the idea, but several details still needed to be addressed, such as how to carry out the system and how to calculate negative votes.
Chen welcomed the Negative Vote Association to provide a concrete plan to carry out the idea.
The campaign initiated by Shih, independent financial adviser Sam Chang and several other political and media figures has won the support of former premier Sean Chen and noted lawyer and former president of the Red Cross Society of the ROC, CV Chen, according to the association's website.
In response to media questions on the campaign Sunday, Sean Chen praised the negative vote system, saying it will convey more precise information on voters' thinking about political parties and candidates, pushing the parties to be "more responsible" in nominating candidates.
Last year, Sean Chen published an article titled In a Happy Democracy, I Can Dislike You, proposing a similar system.
DPP legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming said he respected the idea but stressed that any proposed amendment had to be backed by a consensus between the opposition and ruling parties.
A voting system should be as simple as possible, Ker said. "It is a problem of how to get people to understand" the concept of negative votes.
Welcoming any idea to improve Taiwan's democracy, ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lai Shyh-bao, who is the chief executive of the party's Policy Committee, said there would have to be clear details, such as how to cast a negative vote, if the system were to be adopted.
The inclusion of negative votes will make the electoral system more complicated, Lai argued, saying that it might take voters time to learn the new mechanism.
Jonathan Chen 陳純敬
Sam Chang 張天鷞
Sean Chen 陳沖
C.V. Chen 陳長文