Sat, Oct 27, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Decision on ballot distribution delayed

IDEOLOGICAL CHASM CEC members decided to wait until next month to make a ruling, while politicians took potshots at each other across the blue-green divide

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Protesters demonstrate against the Democratic Progressive Party's proposed referendum on applying to join the UN under the name ``Taiwan'' outside the Central Election Commission in Taipei yesterday. The signs on the board read ``Presidential election is hostage to the referendum,'' ``I'm not voting in the referendum'' and ``Oppose joint elections and referendums.''

PHOTO: CNA

The Central Election Commission (CEC) failed to reach a decision yesterday on how legislative election and referendum ballots will be distributed. Commission members could not reach a consensus during their three-hour meeting.

"We failed to reach a conclusion because many members believed that more factors should be taken into account before a decision is made," commission Chairman Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄) said after the meeting.

"We will consult with local election commission officials and local government heads and make a decision when we meet next month," Chang said, without giving a date.

AT ISSUE

The pan-blue and pan-green camps disagree on how ballots for the legislative elections and two referendums -- one proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and one by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- should be distributed to voters on Jan. 12.

The DPP's "stolen assets recovery" referendum seeks to force the KMT to return assets it acquired illegally during its decades of authoritarian rule.

The KMT's "anti-corruption" referendum aims to give the legislature the power to investigate allegations of corruption against the president and subordinates.

During the 2004 presidential election -- the first time a referendum was held alongside a national election -- the ballots were issued separately.

Some commission members have suggested that ballots be handed out together to simplify the voting process. Pan-blue politicians and commission members recommended by pan-blue political parties are opposed to the idea.

"What the DPP is trying to do is to tie the referendum to the election, so that the referendum voting rate can reach the 50 percent threshold as stated in [the Referendum] law (公投法)," said Chao Shu-chien (趙叔鍵), a CEC member recommended by the People First Party during a break yesterday.

Chao said distributing the ballots together could spark a riot, given the strong ideological divide between the pan-green and pan-blue camps.

"The Central Election Commission should be concerned with ensuring the voting process is smooth and peaceful," Chao said. "If no serious problems occurred last time when the ballots were issued separately, why should we change it?"

Earlier this week, 18 pan-blue local government leaders vowed to have the ballots distributed separately regardless of what the commission decided.

PFP VIEWPOINT

Chao said waiting until next month to make a decision was a "victory."

"It respects the minority opinion, and I'd call it a small satisfactory victory," Chao said. "However, if the commission votes next time, we [the opponents] will certainly lose."

Chao said a majority of commission members support issuing the two ballots at the same time.

A commission member who wished to remain anonymous said Chang was originally going to call a vote on the issue yesterday. The voting did not occur because another member, Chi Chen-nan (紀鎮南), asked whether the 18 pan-blue government leaders would be sanctioned if they refused to issue the ballots simultaneously.

No one could answer the question during the meeting so the vote was put off.

Chi later confirmed the scenario in a telephone call.

Earlier yesterday, DPP caucus whip Wang Tuoh (王拓) told a press conference that the KMT opposed issuing the ballots together because it was afraid it would have to return its stolen assets.

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