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Taiwan needs to step up electoral reforms: foreign observers

2012/01/10 22:54:42

Taipei, Jan. 10 (CNA) Members of an international election observer team urged Taiwan Tuesday to increase the pace of its electoral reforms to ensure a fairer and freer election environment.

"There should be limits to the budget that can be used for campaigning," Sakool Zuesongdham, a member of the Asian Network for Free Elections, told CNA.

He said Taiwan's electoral law, which caps presidenital election campaigning fees at around NT$424 million (US$14.16 million) but does not punish candidates for exceeding that amount, fails to ensure fairness in elections.

"This is one of the concerns that we still see. There are a lot of gaps between big parties and small parties," Zuesongdham said, adding that the smaller parties in Taiwan are also not given equal opportunity for media exposure.

The team, comprising members of various Asian democracies, including Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea, arrived in Taiwan Jan. 8 to observe the Jan. 14 legislative and presidential elections. It is scheduled to hold a press conference after the elections to announce its observations.

The team also came to Taiwan in 2004 and again in 2008 to observe previous presidential elections.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) should work more closely with local non-government organizations on electoral monitoring and ensure the objectivity of the media, said Zuesongdham.

"If the CEC just does administrative tasks, that's not enough for a free, fair and transparent election," he said.

Johny Barliyanta, another member of the team, said Taiwan "needs an electoral justice system to confirm and ensure everybody that the results are accountable."

Barliyanta said he has noticed "growing anxiety" among voters over the results of the election.

Ichal Supriadi, the team's mission director, also called on the government to be more open to international observers. He said that while the CEC welcomed and briefed the team in past elections, the team "hasn't received any responses yet from the CEC this year."

Despite areas for improvements, Zuesongdham said that voters are very eager to support their political parties and that "that's a good sign for Taiwan," as it means people have more anticipation for democracy.

(By Christie Chen)
ENIDTEM/J