Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Outrage builds over Kaohsiung by-election

LEGACY Civic groups are campaigning against nine candidates with links to former councilors who had lost their seats over bribery convictions

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

A candidate for the Kaohsiung City Council by-election and his supporters protest against vote-buying yesterday.

PHOTO: KO YOU-HAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The by-election for the Kaohsiung City Council, in which replacements must be found for councilors who lost their seats after being convicted of bribery in the 2002 council speaker election, features relatives and subordinates of the convicted councilors campaigning for seats.

This does not seem to bother political leaders, including President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who are standing at the ready to support these candidates.

A total of 18 councilors will be elected in tomorrow's by-election. All but one of these seats were left vacant by the conviction of city councilors after the vote-buying scandal surrounding former Kao-hsiung City Council speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄), who had given NT$5 million to each of the convicted councilors to ensure his election.

Nine of the candidates running in the by-election are relatives or associates of the 17 former councilors who had admitted to accepting bribes. Most of these candidates have been endorsed by their political parties, which have spared no effort in campaigning on their behalf.

The Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) plan to hold campaign rallies tonight and invite Chen to stump for the candidates was met with vehement opposition from private groups and political observers, who urged Chen to cancel his campaign trip.

"Chen should not come to Kaohsiung to attend the rally at all," Tseng Kuei-hai (曾貴海), chairman of the Kaohsiung-based Southern Taiwan Society, said yesterday, adding that it would not be conducive to the democratic development of local politics.

"It will create misery for Kao-hsiung's people as well as the entire country to see the return of the corrupted forces," Tseng said.

Kaohsiung's local elite and residents have been apathetic to the by-election, as the quality of the candidates has left them with few choices, Tseng said.

The DPP insisted that Chen's campaigning was legitimate, as he is the party chairman.

"It is totally okay for Chen to stand in support of the party's candidates. If the candidates passed the internal primaries and qualification review to be nominated, what's wrong with the chairman campaigning for them?" said Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), director of the DPP's Information and Culture Department.

Cheng said there is nothing in the party's regulations or the country's election laws which prohibit relatives of those involved in litigation from running in an election.

Cheng played down the party's responsibility for the candidates' nominations, simply saying "We'll leave it to the people to the make the decision."

In an attempt to defuse public outrage over the party's support of the former councilors' relatives, Cheng said the campaign "will focus on heightening the entire campaign atmosphere and the DPP's administrative performance in Kaohsiung City. We won't go into details about individual candidates."

An alliance of social groups has started a campaign to urge Kao-hsiung voters to boycott candidates running on behalf of the convicted councilors. The alliance demanded that these candidates withdraw from the election immediately and asked political parties to apologize for nominating the candidates.

Kuo Hsien-chang (郭憲彰), a lawyer and member of the Southern Taiwan Society, said that the by-election would not only be a test of the integrity of political parties, but also give the people of Kaohsiung the opportunity to choose between dignity and degradation.

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