Online voting will not solve all problems

The China Post news staff

During the last day of the student protesters’ occupation of the Legislative Yuan last spring, the protest known as the Sunflower Movement faced its biggest crisis. Student leaders seized the Legislature in protest of what they saw as opaque and undemocratic ��black box�� negotiations on a cross-strait trade-in-services pact. Yet when the small group of student leaders chose to deliberate on the movement’s exit strategies behind closed doors, they faced accusations of ��black box�� decision making themselves. The movement narrowly avoided major embarrassment as the protest faction criticizing the ��small-circle�� leaders on national television decided to back down at the very last minute. Ideals are always easier to preach than to practice. The student leaders’ closed door decision was undemocratic, but it turned out to be strategically sound. Ending the protest on a high note generated a momentum that in part contributed to the trouncing of the ruling Kuomintang in the Nov. 29 regional elections. The decision-making process in the student-led anti-Beijing protest in Hong Kong, on the other hand, is less centralized and arguably more democratic. Yet the lack of a core strategy has led to the loss of some public support and divisions among protesters. Most democracies employ a representative system not because it is the most democratic but because it is the most practical. While the advance of technology substantially lowers the technical hurdles for direct democracy, it is highly difficult to make decisions by general consensus in an increasingly specialized and urbanized world where people from different backgrounds, belief systems and political views live in the same cities.

A case in point would be the recent ��I-Voting�� election for Taipei city labor chief. Open elections of government chiefs (mainly via online votes) have been one of the key platforms Mayor-elect Ko Wen-je ran on during his campaign. Yet despite only launching I-Voting for one chief for now, the online election process was fraught with troubles. At one point, Ko complained, ��If I had known this beforehand, I would have just picked the labor chief myself.��