Fri, Nov 23, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet cites Criminal Code in poll spat

RAMIFICATIONS The Cabinet secretary-general urged local government heads to abandon two-step voting because it could cause poll staff to lose retirement benefits

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Cabinet yesterday warned local governments that defying the Central Election Commission's (CEC) one-step voting format was a criminal violation subject to prosecution.

On the heels of its warning that defiant local officials would be violating regulations for civil servants, the Cabinet yesterday cited the Criminal Law and called on local governments to obey the CEC's decision.

At issue is the CEC's ruling last Friday to adopt one-step voting -- in which voters will receive the ballots for legislative elections and two referendums together at the entrance to voting stations on Jan. 12.

The 18 pan-blue-governed cities and counties nationwide have jointly declared that they will employ two-step voting.

The Cabinet had warned that the heads of local governments would be held responsible if their election stations are ordered not to comply with the CEC ruling, adding that front-line election personnel would also be subject to punishment as laid out in the Civil Servants Work Act (公務人員服務法), the Civil Servants' Evaluation Act (公務人員考績法) and the Law on Discipline of Civil Servants (公務人員懲戒法).

At a press conference with Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (逸洋), Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林), and Central Personnel Administration Minister Chou Hung-hsien (周弘憲), CEC Chairman Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄) said legislative elections were "outside the designated authority of local election commissions" and "any directives given by local election commissions should be invalid."

"The heads of the 18 local governments could become criminal offenders because their decisions to implement two-step voting would infringe on Article No. 147 of the Criminal Code (刑法) which concerns interfering with voting," he said.

Chang said the election results could be annulled if voters put their ballots in the wrong ballot boxes as a result of the arrangement under the "two-step" procedure and the amount of misplaced ballots was significant.

"That would be a serious consequence," he said.

Cabinet Secretary-General Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) yesterday urged the pan-blue local government heads to abandon their two-step voting plan because it could have repercussions for civil servants, who could lose retirement pay if they ignore the CEC directive.

In his weekly e-newsletter yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) called the two-step approach "unconstitutional."

"Those who insist on using two-step voting are setting the worst example of `one country, two systems' and causing trouble for election staff," Chen said. "It will become the worst example for teaching in the history of Taiwan's democracy."

Chen argued two-step voting violated the Constitution because voters would reveal their opposition to a referendum if they decided not to accept a ballot for it.

The one-step procedure is simple and less confusing," Chen said. "Taiwan has held five-in-one elections before, where voters cast five ballots at a time. Nobody was confused."

The Taipei Municipal Election Commission said yesterday the city would employ two-step voting and shrugged off Chen's statement that the move would violate the Constitution.

"President Chen was elected with a two-step voting system in 2004. Taiwan is a democratic society and the laws are not interpreted by the president unless he declares martial law," Taipei Deputy Mayor and election commissioner Samuel Wu (吳秀光) said after the commission's two-hour meeting.

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