Three ballots for each voter in hybrid polls system

In this picture taken on Dec 29, 2019, Taiwan's presidential election candidates Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, James Soong of the People First Party and Han Kuo-yu of the Nationalist Party are seen at the start of their televised
In this picture taken on Dec 29, 2019, Taiwan's presidential election candidates Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, James Soong of the People First Party and Han Kuo-yu of the Nationalist Party are seen at the start of their televised policy debate in Taipei.PHOTO: AP

TAIPEI • Each voter will collect three ballots as Taiwanese go to the polls today to elect a president and a new legislature.

One ballot will be for president and vice-president, the second for a district legislator, and the third for a political party. Together, the latter two make up what Taiwan calls its "single-district, two-votes system".

It is a hybrid one involving a first-past-the-post system for legislators in 73 single-member districts and a separate proportional representation system for 34 at-large seats which will be distributed to parties based on the percentage of votes received.

Half of the candidates for at-large seats must be women. Six of the remaining seats will be reserved for candidates of aboriginal descent.

This electoral system - adopted in 2008 when the number of seats in the legislature was halved from 225 to 113, and the term for members raised from three to four years - is getting a lot of attention this year.

Many believe that the election results might break the stranglehold the two main parties in Taiwan - the Democratic Progressive Party and the Kuomintang - have exerted in the legislature over the years.

Control has shifted between the two bitterly opposed parties, making legislature meetings and Bill-passing inefficient, with either one threatening to "boycott" votes, staging walkouts during voting or blocking their opponents from entering the legislature.

The previous election in 2016 witnessed a 63 per cent jump in smaller parties entering the fray, and the New Power Party - which was founded just a year earlier in 2015 - performed creditably, winning two at-large seats and three district seats.

A total of 19 political parties and 216 candidates are taking part in the elections this year, a record for a legislative election.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2020, with the headline 'Three ballots for each voter in hybrid polls system'. Subscribe