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Volume #12, Number #2

Published in December, 2008

In a democracy, any given governmental branch needs public support for the fundamentals of institutional legitimacy, and the judiciary is no exception.  This study examines the popular views and evaluations of the judicial system in Taiwan.  I employ the “2003 Taiwan Election and Democratization Study: Democratization and Political Transition” (TEDS 2003) survey date to assess the public’s attitudes toward courts and other political institutions, and thereupon the factors influencing public support for the judicial system.  Methodologically, the judicial evaluations are classified into four factors—“confidence in courts,” “impartial prosecutions,” “fair trials,” and “judicial independence.”  The findings reveal that, compared with other political institutions, popular confidence in courts is relatively high, with approximately 70 percent of the people holding positive evaluations.  The results also confirm that the variables of age, educational attainment, political knowledge and political efficacy exert significant effects on the three public views of the judiciary, i.e., confidence in the courts, impartial prosecutions, and fair trials.  In addition, the variables of Taiwanese-Chinese consciousness, unification-independence preference, and party identification have considerable influences on judicial independence. 

Chung-li Wu

There is a conflict between judicial independence and democratic accountability. In Taiwan, this problem is particularly serious in Taiwan’s prosecutorial system. In 2007, the Ministry of Justice transferred and appointed chief prosecutors. Nine members of the Prosecutorial Council who were elected by prosecutors boycotted these personnel cases. In order to understand the root of the problem, this paper first discusses how reform-minded judges used the Judicial Council to reform the judiciary, while reform-minded prosecutors used the Prosecutorial Council to reform the prosecutorial system. However, both of them ignored the importance of democratic accountability because of the poor quality of Taiwan’s democracy. This paper offers a proposal in which some members of the Judicial Council are politically appointed while some are elected by judges and prosecutors to seek a balance between judicial independence and democratic accountability.   

Chin-shou Wang

While political interference has been the major obstacle in building the judicial capacity in new democracies, how the judicial sector has gained its independence over the course of democratization deserves more scholarly attention.  By following the history of independence seeking by public prosecutors in Taiwan, this paper examines the reasons for the lag in judicial reforms and explains how progress can eventually be made.  The findings indicate that the whistle-blowing incidents have maintained the impetus of reform, while some structural factors, such as the reform competition among sub-systems and the stepping down of the ruling party, have played a substantial role in promoting judicial independence. 

Ching-ping Tang, Hung-sen Huang

This paper analyzes criminal cases to study money politics in a county assembly. We find that money politics is still prevalent in local assemblies. For the 14th to the 16th county assemblies, it is found that about 15% of county assembly members have been prosecuted and 8% have been convicted either during their tenure or before being elected. If we include the cases that involve district captains, the percentages of county assembly members that are prosecuted and convicted during their tenure or before being elected increase to 30% and 20%, respectively. With regard to party membership, members of the KMT and members who are not affiliated with any party have the highest percentages in terms of getting involved. The percentage of DPP members that are involved, on the other hand, is found to exhibit an increasing trend. Money politics is not necessarily less prevalent in the urban areas. In addition, for the 14th to the 16th county assemblies, the percentages of county assembly members that are prosecuted and convicted during their tenure or before being elected are found not to have diminished. On the other hand, in terms of the number of cases each year when cases occur, money politics in county assemblies exhibits a declining trend. With regard to the types of criminal cases, vote-buying is the most dominant and continues to prevail over time. By contrast, the number of other types of cases is declining. 

Chin-en Wu

Three hundred National Assemblymen were elected to make the Constitutional amendment in May 2005. Since the National Assembly itself was abolished as a result of this amendment, these so-called missionary assembly representatives became the first and last of their kind. The implications of this amendment election are as follows. First, compared with the general Congressmen, the duty of the amendment representatives is very straightforward. Since each party and alliance is required to express its amendment standpoint in advance, voters have better information as to why they are voting and also for what reason. Second, the conventional party spectrum was realigned momentarily during this campaign. Both the DPP and KMT supported the amendment standpoint, while other pan-blue and pan-green representatives stood together to veto the proposal. Third, proportional representation has been adopted for the first time in Taiwan. We also have implemented a national single list system that corresponds to this system, which is very rare in other countries.

This paper makes a couple of observations that differ from those of previous electoral studies. First, the importance of four major amendment bills is not consistent. Of the four amendment issues, the electoral reform for the Legislative Yuan has played the most important role for the voters. Second, the voter's independence/unification preference has turned out to be insignificant in this election. Furthermore, party identification and ethnic identification have also been inconsequential. Such a result is essentially important in the sense that it surpasses the fairy tale of party identification and political ideology in explaining Taiwan’s voting behavior.

Ding-ming Wang