The News Lens
By: Daniel Davies
In next year’s legislative elections both the Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are hoping to secure a majority, but after the shock results of 2018 and the growing number of small parties, every seat seems to be contested. The seats held by indigenous legislators, traditionally seen as iron votes for the KMT and pan-blue parties, have also become an open contest and could play a pivotal role in the outcome of the elections.
The reserved seats system differs from the general seats system in two main ways; the selection process and the geographical distribution of constituencies. The use of the single non-transferable voting (SNTV) system means that the required voter threshold for election is considerably lower than for general candidates. Indigenous candidates can typically secure election with 20,000 votes, in contrast with general candidates who require 50,000 upwards. The low threshold for elections meant that elected political positions came from the larger of Taiwan’s 16 recognized indigenous groups.
Historically, all plains indigenous legislators have been from the Amis tribe, the largest indigenous group within Taiwan. The mountain constituency, although more diverse in its leadership, has generally been divided between the larger ethnic groups, with two seats held by politicians from the Atayal tribe or Seediq tribe (previously recognized as part of Atayal), and a third seat held by a candidate from southern Taiwan’s Paiwan tribe. Party support for the KMT has also had an undoubtedly strong resonance within the indigenous constituencies and the highland constituency in particular, which has never elected a candidate affiliated with the pan-green camp.
Kolas Yotaka, the current Executive Yuan spokesperson, is the first Taiwanese indigenous to hold the position. She belongs to the Amis Harawan tribe of Yuli, Hualien.
The 73 constituencies for the general legislative elections are divided first by county and second by township borders. However, the reserved seats for indigenous peoples are divided by historically created borders of highland and lowland constituencies, roughly based on the lines denoting “civilized” people from “barbarian” people as defined in the Japanese colonial period. The result of this division is that instead of being restricted by geographical proximity, the contests are nationwide. [FULL STORY]