With the passing of the amended Local Government Act 地方制度法 last month, we know the sizes of the new city councils for the five direct municipalities. Since these are the highest level SNTV election left in Taiwan, I’m enthralled by them and will be paying far more attention to them than anyone else of the course of the next year.
But first, a bit of background info. Taiwan used to have a four, maybe five tier system of government. Under the central government, all territory was separated into provinces. After the ROC lost mainland China, all that was left was Taiwan Province 台灣省 and a teeny slice of Fujian Province 福建省. Under the provinces, territory was separated into counties and county-level cities. So Taichung City 台中市 and Taichung County 台中縣 were of equal status underneath Taiwan Province. Fujian Province had two counties, Jinmen County 金門縣 and Lianjiang County 連江縣. Actually, most of Lianjiang County is still on the mainland and the ROC governs only a couple of islands with about 5000 people, but it still counts as a full county in ROC organizational terms. Under the counties, territory was separated into township-level governments. Depending on how urbanized it was in the 1950s, it was classified as either a city 市, town 鎮, or village 鄉. So Nantou County 南投縣 has 13 townships, including Nantou City 南投市, Caotun Town 草屯鎮, and Mingjian Village 名間鄉. The county level cities also have township-level entities, called districts 區. However, unlike cities, towns, and villages, which elect their own mayors, district heads are appointed civil servants. Finally, underneath the cities, towns, villages, and districts, you have cun 村 and li 里 (which are often translated as wards, boroughs, and/or villages). Cun and li are usually have 1000-5000 people, and don’t have any real independent powers. Rather, they are organizational units that the higher level governments use to implement policy. Their heads are elected, however. Villages have cun, and the other three have li. (English simply doesn’t have enough words to translate all these terms well, so in the previous sentence I might as well have written, “villages have villages underneath them.” Sigh.) Oh, and the provincial government was gutted in 1998.
Are you still awake? Well, in 1967, the government decided to elevate Taipei City 台北市 to a direct municipality, with status equal to a province. In 1976, Kaohsiung City 高雄市 was also elevated. Direct municipalities are different from county-level cities in several respects. First, under the old non-democratic regime, municipality mayors were, like the Provincial Governor, appointed rather than elected. That, however, changed in 1994, so now all are elected. Second, direct municipalities have much better funding. They get a different set of tax revenues and end up with a much larger budget than county governments. As such, direct municipalities have much better public infrastructure. Third, mayors of county governments can only appoint about four people. Everyone else is a civil servant. In contrast, mayors of direct municipalities can appoint lots of people, including the heads of all the city government departments and districts. So life is much better as mayor of Taipei City than as mayor of Hsinchu City 新竹市 (county-level city).
This year, after years and years of political wrangling, three more direct municipalities will be created. Taipei County 台北縣 (which has a larger population than Taipei City) will be elevated. It is also changing its name to 新北市, which the Taipei Times (my favorite source for translations) is rendering as Sinbei City. I would have preferred New Taipei (a la New Delhi). The new Taichung City is being created combining the old Taichung City with the old Taichung County. Similarly, the new Tainan City combines Tainan City and Tainan County. Finally, the new Kaohsiung City will expand the old Kaohsiung City (which was already a direct municipality) to include the old Kaohsiung County.
|New entity||Old entities||Eligible voters
(2008 LY list tier)
|% of electorate|
|Taipei City||Taipei City||2037601||11.8|
|Sinbei City||Taipei County||2870678||16.6|
|Rest of Taiwan||6935664||40.1|
Maybe now I’m finally ready to get to the actual post.
The Local Government Act also set the guidelines for determining the sizes of the direct municipalities. (All this is preliminary, since the final determinations will be based on populations in June 2010 (I think), but we don’t expect too much change between now and then.) So here’s what I think we have (updated June 17):
|平地原住民 Plains Aborigines||1||1|
So the new law means that Taipei County essentially retains the same number of seats, and everyone else adjusts to that standard. I haven’t heard how Sinbei City will be apportioning its seats to individual districts, but I don’t see any reason for changes. The only difference is that they get one more seat for Plains Aborigines. (I don’t know if this is because the population has increase or because the apportioning rules are different.)
The Taipei City Council will actually be increasing in size from 52 to 63. This means that each district is going to get one or two extra seats. Hooray! It’s a great time to be a candidate there. Incumbents have a little more breathing room, and new candidates will be able to get nominations.
Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung are exactly the opposite. They will be bloody. The number of seats will be reduced by anywhere from a third to a half. A newspaper article gave the plan for the new districts in Taichung City. They were debating on whether to use the legislative districts, each of which would have around eight seats or keep the old districts and simply cut the number of seats in each. As of now, they have decided to keep the old districts. As you can see, a lot of incumbents are going to become unemployed at the end of the year. For new candidates, it will be next to impossible to get a nomination. It will be hard enough for the incumbents to get nominated. I don’t have the district by district breakdown for Tainan and Kaohsiung yet. Tainan will almost certainly have to redraw its districts, since the current ones are fairly small.
This certainly was a long-winded way to say Taipei—easy; Sinbei—normal, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung—meat grinders.