The Taiwan High Court's Kaohsiung branch yesterday overruled a district court ruling that had annulled Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu's (陳菊) victory in last year's Kaohsiung mayoral election.
The ruling is final, meaning Chen will be able to finish her term of office.
The verdict was announced at 4pm, with about 2,000 police officers stationed outside the court building to prevent any violence.
Court spokesman Weng Ching-chen (翁慶珍) told a press conference that the judges decided that while the Election and Recall Law of Civil Servants (公務人員選舉罷免法) stipulates that using violence or threats to hinder a rival's campaign is illegal, an election-eve press conference that alleged Chen's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rival Huang Chun-ying (黃俊英) had engaged in vote-buying did not meet the criteria.
Weng said the press conference could have at most been interpreted as a slanderous move that violated campaign period regulations.
Weng said the high court had decided that Chen had not broken any fundamental election-related principles which would justify annulling the results. Chen defeated Huang in the Dec. 9 poll by a margin of just 1,114 votes, or 0.14 percent of the total vote.
Huang filed two lawsuits on Dec. 28, one challenging the election process, the other the results.
The Kaohsiung District Court ruled in June that Chen's camp had violated the Election and Recall Law because it used illegal means to hinder her rival's campaign. It annulled the poll results and ruled the election had to be held again.
Chen appealed, which led to yesterday's ruling.
Chen thanked the judges yesterday for giving her delayed justice. She promised to continue focusing her efforts on developing Kaohsiung.
"The verdict is justice that came one year later. I thank the judges at the Taiwan High Court's Kaohsiung branch for respecting justice and preventing the city from becoming chaotic," Chen said in front of Kaohsiung City Hall.
"More importantly, this case showed the validity of both the electoral system and the people's faith in the legal system. In a democratic election, winning by just one vote is winning," she said.
Surrounded by municipal staffers and supporters, Chen thanked her administration workers and Kaohsiung residents for supporting her this year and pledged to make Kaohsiung residents' interests her priority.
Huang, meanwhile, expressed his regret and disappointment over the verdict.
He questioned whether the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had intervened to achieve its desired result.
"It's unbelievable. I had nothing to do with the bribery incident, but the DPP used terrible tactics to smear me," Huang told a press conference in Kaohsiung.
The vote-buying allegation turned out to be a valid complaint.
Kaohsiung prosecutors have indicted Ku Hsin-ming (古鋅酩) and Tsai Neng-hsiang (蔡能祥) on charges of vote-buying. Ku, who rented buses used to transport Huang's supporters to an election-eve rally, is believed to have paid voters NT$500 each "to vote for the KMT Kaohsiung City councilor candidate."
"There are rumors that political manipulators have interfered with the judicial system. President Chen [Shui-bian (
KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (