Editorial: By-election to test DPP's integrity

Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 8

Campaigning is as bad as ever. In the run-up to the Kaohsiung City Council by-elections on Saturday, there have been reports that several candidates are under investigation for vote-buying aimed at guaranteeing the support of local factions.

We still remember how former Kaohsiung City Council speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄) was convicted of having paid NT$5 million to both pan-blue and pan-green councilors in exchange for their support in the 2002 council speaker election. Thirty-four city councilors were accused of having accepted bribes, and 16 were convicted and relieved of their duties. With one councilor having resigned voluntarily and one DPP councilor aiming for the year-end legislative elections, 18 city council seats will be contested in Saturday's by-election.

Chu was sentenced to 22 months in prison for vote-buying during the city council elections in 2000, and another 44 months for his vote-buying scheme in the council speaker election in 2002. After the announcement of the verdict last year, Chu fled overseas.

What is worse is that because several DPP councilors were involved in the case, the party's "anti-black gold" commitment has taken a blow. The only clean party is the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), whose two city councilors resisted the pecuniary temptation. This has led to a considerable increase in the TSU's prestige in Kaohsiung. Although the former councilors have lost their seats after being found guilty, they are now seeking to participate in the by-elections by registering in the name of their wives or children.

The Constitution protects each and every citizen's right to participate in politics, and this right should not be curtailed due to the crime of a family member or a relative. But all political observers who understand Taiwan's politics know that the constitutional spirit is just a moral loophole for politicos who have committed crimes and want to re-enter politics. In constitutional and legal terms, this is a wholly legitimate idea, but ethically, it is seriously flawed.

These controversial candidates include Chu's daughter, Chu Ting-shan (朱挺珊), former DPP councilor Chang Ching-chuan's (張清泉) wife, Hsiao Ya-chuan (蕭雅娟) and former KMT councilor Tsai Ching-yuan's (蔡慶源) son, Tsai Wu-nan (蔡武男). An alliance formed by several anti-vote buying groups have labelled these people "vote-buying families" and called on voters to reject them.

The people of Kaohsiung should use their sacred right to vote to clean up the city's electoral culture. After all, the city councilors are elected by the people, who must take responsibility for the candidates they select. They should consider the possible results of what electing members of these "vote-buying families" will really mean.

The ruling party must meet its commitment to eradicating "black-gold" politics so that there isn't a repeat of the 2002 speaker election, with its rampant use of bribery. One of the reasons President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) managed to win a second term in office has been because of the DPP's commitment to eradicating "black gold." The party must not only draw a clear line between itself and "black gold," it must go one step further to obliterate the practice root and branch. The DPP can no longer place all the blame for "black gold" on the KMT's period of government. The Kaohsiung by-elections will be a test of the government's administrative skill. Even as power tends to corrupt, the DPP is increasingly likely to face the temptation of "black gold."

Legislative elections are already scheduled for year's end, so the candidates that the DPP puts forward must have no mark of corruption, or the party that came out the victor in the presidential election may be rejected by the electorate at the end of the year.