The Dynamic Triangles Among Constituencies, Parties and Legislators: A Comparison Before and after the Reform of Electoral System
36 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 20 Oct 2009
Date Written: 2009
This article explores Taiwan’s representative politics under the old and new electoral system. The electoral reform in Taiwan provides a chance of something like “natural experiment” so that we may observe what impacts a new electoral reform may bring about. This exploration bases on long term observations on legislators’ behavior from 1996 to 2009. Data used in this research include surveys on legislators’ assistants, intensive interviews on legislators and their assistants, legislators’ introduction of bills, and roll call votes. Under an old electoral system (SNTV), legislators had incentives to build a base of personal vote. They tended to be more considerate of their constituency, conducting casework, introducing particularistic interest bills to provide benefits, and supporting the adoption of pork barrel projects in exchange for the electoral support of their constituents. Whenever a conflict between their party and their constituency occurred, legislators would tend to display more loyalty towards their constituency, rather than to their party. After the electoral reform in 2005, legislators under a new system (SMD) are even more parochial and localized than those under the old system. This is so because legislators need to garner votes by themselves, and they easily claim credits and hardly avoid constituent’s blames. Also, legislators face large intra-party competition when they pursue nomination within party. Legislators thus have a strong intention to exploit the position and power of legislators to provide particularistic benefits to constituency so as to pave the way for reelection.
In contrast to much of the literature, when legislators are more parochial and localized, they are not necessarily more likely to deviate from their party. On the contrary, legislators have incentives to stand together with their partisans to establish party reputation. This is because legislators under an SMD face large inter-party competition and party label is important for their own political life.
Keywords: electoral reform, Taiwan, constituency service, legislative behavior
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