Read the main conclusions in the report on the National Election in Taiwan on January 14. 2012 here. The report is written by the International Election Observation Mission and is based on their own observations as well as other sources, including the Taiwan and international press
International observers from various countries observed the national election in Taiwan in January 2012. The observers were invited by the International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan (ICFET) to form an International Election Observation Mission (IEOM).
On January 15., the IEOM members published a press release stating that they found the election to be mostly free but partly unfair. The observations in Taiwan demanded a deeper analysis of the election which have resulted in a report on the national election in Taiwan. This report has been written by the election observers independent of the ICFET.
The report is based on the IEOM members own observations as well as other sources, including the Taiwan and international press.
The report is written by eighteen observers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United States, Their experiences range from academia, elected representatives, religious groups, businesses to the civil society. As observers, the IEOM members have tried to be strictly neutral in all their activities, data gathering, and conclusions.
The ICFET was formed in 2011 to support free and fair elections in Taiwan. It consists of 88 leading democrats from around the world who which to express their solidarity with the people of Taiwan.
The IEOM report centre on a number of issues that influenced the election in Taiwan such as the use of administrative power, the authoritarian legacy, campaign funds, freedom of access to the media, vote buying, voting date and residency.
The IEOM concludes that there has been a misuse of government power and therefore sees a need for a structural reform. Also, the IEOM notes the need to monitor this issue in future elections.
IEOM lists as an example of misuse the embezzlement accusations against DPP Presidential candidate Tsai from the Minister of Economic Planning in relation to the TaiMed Biologics Company. Later these charges were found baseless. In addition, there has been spying on Presidential candidate Tsai done by the National Security Bureau and reports were sent to President Ma’s campaign about her election schedules.
These are major violations of the principle of administrative neutrality during elections. Hence, IEOM recommends that government offices remain administratively neutral during campaigns and go into a “caretaker mode” during elections.
Taiwan’s democracy suffers from several structural problems that are at least in part legacies from its authoritarian past. One of these problems is the massive KMT party asset.
KMT has massive real estate and financial holdings and therefore KMT’s ability to fund and influence voters is strong. According to news reports and “The Unfinished Democratization” by Taiwan Brain Trust, the dividend earnings in 2010 from the KMT’s holdings of stocks alone were close to US$100 million.
All candidates should have equal access for funding for elections. This is hard to obtain even in mature democracies but in Taiwan there is a huge imbalance in party wealth and resources. The KMT’s assets are about 100 times those of the DPP.
Elections should not be determined or influenced by international pressure or informal relationships.
In Taiwan, the increasing “cross-strait” relations between Taiwan and China are producing a stronger Chinese influence. China puts tremendous pressures on Taiwan’s democracy by attempting to sway Taiwan’s voters to cast their ballots in ways that favor China.
Chinese influence is conducted through Chinese agricultural purchases, reduction of Chinese tourism close the election, by Chinese political support and by influencing Taiwanese workers working for Taiwanese companies in China. Also, China ensured a 50% discount on flights to Taiwan before the election.
In addition, IEOM is also concerned about the influence from the USA. The USA influenced the election by allowing a rare visit to Taipei by high-level U.S. officials on December 21, 2011 and by announcing Taiwan’s candidacy for participation in the Visa Waiver Program. Moreover, a senior U.S. official stated anonymously through the Financial Times that DPP’s presidential candidate Tsai “left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years”. Also, notably were the comments made by former AIT director during the election in support of President Ma.
IEOM finds systemic imbalances in the media that have a negative impact on the development of the Fourth Estate in Taiwan.
The Taiwanese media fails frequently to distinguish between news and editorial opinion. The media environment was open and free during the election campaign, but often the various media were also very partisan.
From the many reports in the media, vote buying continues to be a major problem. The measures taken by the government still appear to be insufficient to eradicate vote buying.
Voting date and residency
The date for the election became an issue when the decision was made to combine the legislative election (previously usually in early December) and the Presidential election (always in March). While generally all parties accepted this date, there were still at least two controversies about the date.
First, the date made it more convenient for Taiwan businessmen in China to return to vote as businessmen could combine voting with taking a family holiday on the Lunar New Year.
Second, most universities had final exams at the end of the semester up until the Friday before the elections (January 13th). Students generally have their household registration in their home town, and many students from the south who studied in the north were unable to return home to vote, especially since the Lunar New Year holiday began one week later (January 21), when they would return home for the holidays anyway.
The IEOM suggests a number of specific recommendations for Taiwan’s future democratic development:
1. Thoroughly and honestly resolve of the longstanding problem of KMT party assets.
2. Strengthen enforcement and public promotion of campaign spending laws, and close the many loopholes that candidates and parties can use.
3. Make consequences real for candidates who buy votes, such as disqualification from running in future elections.
4. Use party discipline to combat vote-buying.
5. Create a mechanism to allow people to vote where they actually work or study in Taiwan and thus end the need to travel long distances “home” in Taiwan to vote. This is already practiced in many countries.
Read the entire report here…