Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Hau threatens to withhold voters' ballots

DOING THE TWO-STEP A Central Election Commission member slammed the group's chairperson for trying to `intimidate' local bureaucrats into following the CEC's system

By Flora Wang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) reiterated his government's determination to follow the two-step voting procedure for the Jan. 12 poll yesterday and warned that voters who refused to follow the procedure would not be given ballots.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) decided last Friday to use a one-step voting process, in which voters would receive the ballots for the legislative elections and two referendums together at the entrance to polling stations.

The 18 pan-blue-governed cities and counties, however, have said they will employ a two-step voting process.

"Anyone who fails to follow the two-step voting procedure, including the president and all other politicians, will not be given ballots. They will give up their right to vote," Hau said.

He was responding to a question in the Taipei City Council from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) city councilors about what would happen if top Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members, such as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), refuse to follow the two-step system.

When asked about the shortage of election personnel, Hau acknowledged the CEC still needed 500 more civil servants, but said there would be enough staff in the Songshan District, where Chen's household is registered, because many people were interested in whether the president would follow Taipei's rules.

Meanwhile, Chao Shu-chien (趙叔鍵), a CEC member recommended by the People First Party, lashed out at CEC Chairman Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄) yesterday.

Chao said that Chang had misinterpreted the law when he cited the Criminal Code while warning local governments not to ignore the one-step voting format.

Joined by members of the KMT legislative caucus, Chao told a press conference that Chang was guilty of intimidating local government officials.

"It is inappropriate for the Central Election Commission to urge locals [electoral commissions] to comply with the one-step procedure," he said.

"Article 11 of the Election and Recall Law for Civil Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法) stipulates that local election commissions are in charge of electoral affairs and the CEC has nothing to do with it," Chao said.

On Thursday, Chang said the legislative elections were "outside the designated authority of local election commissions" and that "any directives given by local election commissions should be [considered] invalid."

"The heads of the 18 local governments could be breaking the law because implementing a two-step voting process would infringe on Article No. 147 of the Criminal Code, which concerns interference with voting," Chang said.

Chao said that although the law says the CEC can give directives to local electoral commissions, there is a "gray area" regarding whether the CEC has such authority.

"Elections are soon forgotten. I am concerned with whether the CEC may become a tool of the ruling party if it cannot maintain its impartiality now," Chao said.

In response, Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) said that what the government said was merely a "friendly reminder," not a "threat."

But, he said, that "for the 18 pan-blue local government heads, that was a warning."

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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