Wed, Mar 24, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Abiding by the law

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) decision yesterday to strictly abide by the rule of law concerning the ballot-counting dispute was the right one. Chen also suggested that the Legislative Yuan immediately amend the Public Officials Election and Recall Law (公職人員選罷法) by adding a rule that the Central Election Commission must carry out an "administrative recount" if the gap between the top two candidates in an election is less than 1 percent, and that the amendment be made retroactive.

With such a legal foundation, the commission would be able to recount the votes at an early date, eliminating the need for a time-consuming judicial process. Such a move could help not only bring an end to the pan-blue-camp protests, but also eliminate the possibility of the problem reoccuring.

As for the other pan-blue complaints -- such as the questions about the timing of the shooting of Chen and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and its impact on the election -- these are best left to be resolved through the judicial process.

Opposition politicians should stop trying to foment unrest by spreading rumor and innuendo and stirring the already intense emotions of the crowds that have protested in front of the Presidential Office since Saturday. They should be willing to resort to legal means to resolve their complaints. Otherwise, pan-green supporters may also demand a recount of ballots and file suit to annul the results if they were to lose the next election. Such actions would turn every presidential election into a farce and lead to serious political instability. This can surely not be the true purpose of turning Taiwan into a democracy.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday legalized the protest in front of the Presidential Office and approved a request to extend the demonstration to 10pm this Saturday. If the protest were really a legal gathering he would not have felt the need to go there three times over the weekend to try to persuade the crowds to return home. Ma has been no more effective -- or convincing in his statements -- this time than he was four years ago when unhappy Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters pro-tested for days outside the party's headquarters.

If people demonstrate without the government's permission they are violating the law. Such illegal behavior cannot be legalized days later by the organizers asking for permission. With his legal background, Ma should know better than most that such post facto legitimation violates logic and convention. His actions make it seem as if he places the interests of the KMT before the dignity of the law. He should place his responsibilities as mayor above those of pan-blue alliance campaign manager and end the protest as soon as possible.

The pan-blue demonstrators' demand for a recount, however, is reasonable given the narrow margin of victory. With Chen already having given his consent and the Legislative Yuan having begun negotiations to pass the needed amendment, hopefully a recount procedure can be organized in the next few days.

What is not reasonable is the demand by KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and others in the pan-blue camp that Chen throw out the rule of law and issue an emergency decree in order to resolve the controversy. They are urging him to act like a dictator -- after spending the whole campaign attacking him for his supposed dictatorial ways.

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