Sunday, December 10, 2006

The votes are in...

Well, it looks like I'm the first to post after the now most of you have probably heard the results, but I'll post them just in case: Frank Hsieh lost Taipei by more than 170,000 votes, and Chen Chu won Kaohsiung by a mere 1000 votes to become the first elected female mayor in Taiwan (her predecessor, Chu Lan-yeh, is also a woman, but was not elected). I'll save the election analysis for someone more qualified than myself, but wanted to make sure we got a post-election post up here on the blog. I don't know what the turnout was here in Taipei, but the experts we met with earlier in the week projected that it would be around 65%, down from 70% in the last elections.

We were able to observe the entire election process yesterday, and were very impressed by the transparency and accuracy of the system. When people arrived at their polling places (most are in schools, temples, churches, and storefronts), they presented their identification cards, stamped their seals/signed their names on the registry, and were handed two separate ballots: a yellow one for the mayoral election and a white one for the city council elections. Each ballot included the names, pictures, parties, and ballot numbers of the candidates. The voters took the two ballots into their voting booths, put a red stamp above their candidate of choice on each of the two ballots, then dropped the yellow ballot in the mayoral box and the white ballot in the city council box.

When the polls closed at 4:00, the poll workers took over. One person removed the ballots one at a time, clearly announcing the name and number of the candidate selected on each ballot. Another poll worker kept a tally on a large poster on the wall, while several other workers checked the announcer's accuracy and put the ballots in piles according to the candidate marked on the ballot. Once all of the votes were counted, the candidates' piles were counted and double checked with the tallies on the wall. The ballots were bound, put back in the ballot box, and taken to a central election headquarters (I'm not sure exactly where) with the rest of the city's ballots. All of the results were tabulated and announced by 8:00 p.m.

Two police officers observed the entire process at each polling place, and everything was public--we were nine of about 30-40 people who stayed to watch the results being tabulated.

I know that many of you have a much better understanding of Taiwan's election process than I do, and I know we'd all love to hear your insights (and corrections to my purely observational analysis).

Today is the last official day of our trip, and we're meeting for our last lunch in about an hour. I'll be sorry to say goodbye to the rest of the group--they've been a pleasure to get to know over the past week, and I look forward to (hopefully!) seeing them again soon in the U.S. I'm very fortunate in that I will get to stay an additional nine days here in Taipei, visiting my husband's relatives and getting to know the city better. During that time, I'll try to continue posting about our experiences on the FAPA-YPG trip.

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