Like the United States, Taiwan also has a President and Vice President who will be elected in 2016. Unlike the United States, however, the president's executive authority is limited to two spheres: international relations (including the controversial cross-strait relations with China) and national security. While these issues are extremely important, they make up only a small part of the daily lives of Taiwanese citizens. What Taiwanese, like Canadians, care about most, is their future government's legislative agenda. Laws are enacted by legislatures, which in Taiwan and Canada are called the Legislative Yuan and Parliament, respectively. The officials who make up these legislative bodies are elected in both countries, but the manner in which they are elected differs in important ways.
Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan has 113 seats. Of the 113 seats, 73 are filled with the winners of district elections according to the first-past-the-post system, 34 are filled proportionally for each party whose share of the vote was more than 5%, while the remaining six seats are reserved for aboriginal candidates. In Canada, all 338 seats of the House of Commons are filled according to first-past-the-post in each electoral riding. Like Canada, Taiwan has three parties with significant support in the wake of their upcoming elections; Conservatives, New Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberals in Canada; KMT, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and People First Party (PFP) in Taiwan. Both countries also have two other smaller parties currently represented in their legislatures; the Bloc Québecois and Green Party in Canada; the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) and Mínguódăng (MKT) in Taiwan.
From among these similarities, what stands out is simply the greater opportunity for representation given to smaller parties and aboriginal communities in Taiwan. Despite having less than half the number of seats in their legislature, the Taiwanese system reserves six seats for the aboriginal community of their island which make up a large part of their history but less than 2.5% of their population. In Canada, where our aboriginals make up 4.3% of our total population, we reserve no seats for their diaspora in our House of Commons. Similarly, the Bloc Quebecois and Green Party, despite combining for nearly 10% of the popular vote in the 2011 election, held only five seats in parliament because of the difficulty in obtaining a plurality when votes are scattered across many ridings.
The Taiwanese electoral system is certainly not perfect, however. There, like in Canada, there are vocal advocates for amendments to the system which could make it fairer. In particular, our system needs to take into account that there are important political interest groups with significant support, but which are never the largest group in any electoral riding. It is for these interest groups, and for our aboriginal communities who have been historically underrepresented in Parliament, that our electoral system should be updated, and Taiwan’s new democratic elections are a model to follow.
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