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'. Print Edition | Subscribe