Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Kaohsiung City: Here we go again

The voters of Kaohsiung City have every right to be irritated. Now that the Kaohsiung District Court has ruled that the city's mayoral election should be annulled -- citing irregularities before the poll -- an appeal by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) will keep her in office and protect the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) hold on the post for some months as the justice system swings into gear.

Most Kaohsiung residents will not be overly inconvenienced by having to vote all over again at some point down the track.

But the interests of Kaohsiung as a whole are hardly served by a judicial process that will take up the government's time and resources and place an obstacle in front of government programs and reform -- and this is after delays incurred by the hospitalization of the mayor after she suffered a mild stroke.

Certainly, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its mayoral candidate Huang Chun-ying (黃俊英) were feeling vindicated last night. They were adamant that their loss was the result of unfair campaign tactics on the part of Chen.

And, it has to be said, Chen was unwise to say what she did. She may well rue the day she chose to use strategically dubious accusations of vote-buying to attack her rival.

But Huang's petulance in the wake of the loss did not impress observers who crave a little more maturity in politics.

Nor does it bode well for any subsequent election in which he takes part.

The response from the KMT side more generally has been predictable, with the all-too-familiar "justice was finally served" chestnut being trotted out yet again, suggesting that for so many Taiwanese this thing called "justice" is a commodity that shares the color of the party in question rather than an independent system of legal deliberation.

The response from the DPP has been somewhat less predictable.

Some DPP voices last night suggested that Chen should not appeal and instead take the matter to the court of voter sentiment -- a new election -- as soon as possible. For the city's sake, there was a strong case to be made on this option.

However, Chen has decided to fight the good fight, and she is entitled to do so. It is not clear whether she thinks her chances would be improved if the appeal is rejected and a poll held later instead of sooner.

Now that she is out of hospital, it is possible that swing voters would be more sympathetic to her government and more interested in administrative stability than partisan politics -- and therefore supportive of an earlier election.

In the meantime, a precedent has apparently been set for illegal campaign language.

Given that so many elections feature similar tussles and casual accusations of impropriety, it is unnerving to imagine the impact of the court's decision on future polls if candidates do not change their ways.

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