Mon, Jun 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Baseless, reckless and feckless

Looking at Friday's hearing in the pan-blues' case to annul the presidential election it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. This was the election losers' chance to explain what was wrong with the election. Their argument was that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was shot, and that this had influenced the election by encouraging some people to vote for Chen and some people not to vote at all for fear of violence. Obviously the election should have been postponed, they said.

After the past three months, nobody in Taiwan needs a background in constitutional or electoral law to see what is wrong with this argument. Even grade-school kids know by now that the Presidential Election and Recall Law mandates that an election can only be postponed if one of the candidates is killed. So the basis of the pan-blues case on Friday was that the election should be annulled because the Central Election Commission had followed the law.

One of the great ironies about this is that immediately after the shooting on the afternoon of March 19, the pan-blues' stated fear was that the shooting might be used as a pretext to call the election off. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) was adamant that the election must go ahead, regardless of how incapacitating Chen's injury might be. Indeed, Lien's comments on this matter were used against the pan-blues in court by the Democratic Progressive Party counsel.

It was interesting to see what evidence the pan-blues provided for their claim that Chen's shooting had significantly influenced the election. This evidence was two polls, one conducted by the notoriously pro-pan-blue, pro-China TVBS, and another conducted by Lien's think tank. Could this have been just the tiniest bit lacking in objectivity?

The pan-blue counsel, unable to answer such simple questions from the presiding judge as what the legal grounds for their complaint were, also tried to sidetrack and say the election had been influenced by Article 17 of the Referendum Law. Somehow the pan-blues wanted to claim that this law, which had allowed the president to call a referendum on the same day as the election, somehow was unfair to the pan-blues' candidates. The judge had to point out that the Referendum Law was passed by the pan-blues themselves, so they could hardly complain about its provisions.

But beyond the laughter that the wretchedness of the pan-blues' case engenders, there should be some anger. The pan-blue case has been shown to be absolutely without merit. Not even the most basic regard has been paid to the law governing the events concerning which the case has been brought, as the claim against the Central Election Commission shows. So why is the case continuing?

The courts are not duty-bound to listen to the bizarre allegations of any diseased mind. They are in fact supposed first to decide if there is a case to answer. In every court appearance the pan-blues have failed to show that there is such a case. They should be presented with an ultimatum: Establish the basis of your case in the next session or have it thrown out of court.

As for the pan-blue lawyers, they have come to court totally unprepared, perhaps because they know the case they plead is unpleadable. They should be reminded of their obligations under the Attorney Regulation Act (律師法), which defines them first and foremost as public servants whose duty it is to uphold the judicial system's integrity. According to the act, attorneys may not engage in "baseless lawsuits," and the pan-blues' case is beginning to look like a textbook definition of this term. Smart attorneys would be wondering if this case, far from seeking redress for supposed violations of the nation's laws, might instead be making them the violators.

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