Sunday, January 5, 2020

A bit on the English Revolution

I'm working on a post about the Taiwan elections - its more than half done, all the basic research is complete and all the organization of the data is finished. All I need to do is to string all the various numbers together with words so that I'm not simply presenting a poorly explained list of numbers to you.

While gathering this data, however, it occurred to me that it would take quite a lot of time and space to properly explain one particular aspect of Taiwanese history, and that just saying "Recruiter Election" or "Election via Co-Option" might only serve to confuse and might not carry the weight intended. As such, I'm going to take today to tell you all about part of the English Revolution.

Queen Elizabeth I of England died in 1603, and King James VI of Scotland thus became King James I of England through inheritance. This is the King James of Bible fame, as he sponsored the translation of the Bible that is most common in the English speaking world today. When he died in 1625, Charles I became King. Charles would butt heads with Parliament, with Charles strongly believing in the divine right of kings, and Parliament wanting to stop Charles' excesses. This would lead to him ruling for over a decade without calling a Parliament; eventually this was unsustainable (as only Parliament could levy taxes) so he called one in 1640 to help deal with the fallout from the Bishops war, a rebellion/civil war in/with Scotland.

The first thing Parliament did was tell Charles to knock off all the nonsense. Charles did not take well to this. Various things happened (this is not a history blog, so I'm skipping quite a bit here) and Charles suspected (properly rightly) that some MPs had been colluding with the invading rebellious Scots. He then marched into the Commons - which, I'm sure almost all of my readers know, is a huge 'no-no' in the parlance of today - and tried to have 5 members arrested. Charles then fled the city and declared Parliament in rebellion and raised a royal army. With him, left a number of royalist MPs who formed the Oxford Parliament. Of the total 507 MPs, 175 fled to Oxford; this would have left 332 in what became known as the Long Parliament. In the lords, 86 fled, leaving, what seems to be, 21.

It was during this period that the House started implementing "Recruiter Elections". It had now been 5 years since they were elected, and a number of their members no longer sat (for example, those who fled to oxford). These are, basically, by-elections to fill vacancies.

By 1648, there were 471 active members of the House, most, having been elected over 8 years prior. It was in 1648 that "Prides Purge" occured, where elements of the army, lead by Col. Pride, barred access to the Commons to many members. When all was said and done, 200 members were left. Of them, only 70 regularly attended the House, and a dozen, the Lords.

Keep in mind that in a body of 507 MPs, only 70 truly remained. It would be as though the Canadian military blocked off the House of Commons, and only let Bloc Quebecois MPs in. Beyond this, these MPs held no general elections, and thus continued to sit. Imagine that not only has the military does this for the Bloc, but that there have been no elections since the year 2000. Now imagine that the "Parliament", AKA the Bloc MPs elected 20 years ago, claim to represent the electorate, as, they were after all, elected; and you start to understand the problem.

So, how does this tie in to Taiwan?

Three events took place in Taiwan and China that mirror some of the above.

First, the 1947 and 1948 elections, in which Communists did not run. This was held in the context of a divided country in a civil war, and as such, any 'purge' would have taken place by voters voluntarily staying away from the ballot box if they held communist or anti-nationalist sympathies. Second, the move to Taiwan where 330 of the 759 members fled, significantly cut the number of members. Finally, the 330 that remained continued to sit for life until the completion of the democratization process, with only recruiter elections in the interim.

That legislature, the Legislative Yuan, elected in 1948 from members across China, would rule Taiwan for decades. In 1969, an election via co-option was held, adding 11 members to the assembly. It was after this that they did something different, and which likely lead to Taiwan's eventually becoming a democracy.

At the next recruiter elections in 1972, they decided the new members would sit only for 3 years. They elected 51 members. In 1975, they elected 52 members. Each time, all the newly elected members would have their seats go back up for a general election. Just before the 1978 elections, however, the US terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan and the elections were delayed.

Delayed until when? Well I don't want to spoil tomorrow's entire blogpost! More on this tomorrow.

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