Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Chen dares Hau to withhold his ballot

TAIPEI INDEPENDENCE The president questioned the mayor's defiance, asking if he thought he ruled over a city that is not accountable to the central government

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday chided Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) over his decision not to hand out ballots to those who refuse to follow the two-step voting system in the legislative elections on Jan. 12.

Chen dared Hau withhold the ballot when he votes next year.

"I don't want to speak ill of [Hau] ... that he is ignorant, but how can he be so naive? Voting is everyone's right and cannot be denied," Chen said when approached by the media for comment.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Nov. 16 decided to use a one-step voting procedure. Under the one-step format, voters will receive two ballots for the legislative elections and two referendum ballots at the same time and then cast them into four different boxes. One of the two legislative ballots is cast for a candidate, while the other ballot indicates the voter's political party of choice.

Voters will also be asked to fill out the two referendum ballots to indicate whether or not they support a proposal by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to force the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to return "stolen assets" to the national coffers and another proposal by the KMT on wiping out corruption.

However, 18 pan-blue local governments chiefs insist on following a two-step voting process, whereby voters first cast their legislative election ballots before receiving their referendum ballots. The pan-blues argue that the one-step format would create confusion and result in disputes at polling stations on election day.

The CEC has warned that electoral officials who do not adhere to the one-step voting format may face criminal prosecution, but the KMT leadership has dismissed the warning as a bluff, saying the election law stipulates that the conduct of electoral affairs in individual counties and cities falls under the jurisdiction of local governments.

On Friday, Hau said: "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."

Chen yesterday responded by saying: "I will comply with the [CEC's] instructions, and there is nothing that can prevent me from casting my ballot."

"I dare [Hau] to withhold my ballots," he said. "Feel free to withhold my ballots if [Hau] can really do so."

The CEC's decision must be strictly observed and the government will not make allowance for anyone who wanted to adopt the two-step system, he said.

"Does the Taipei City Government think it is independent?" Chen asked. "It is still part of the system of government."

"We cannot thave two different systems in the country," he said.

Chen said the KMT's refusal to adopt the one-step voting process stemmed from its wish to thwart the referendum and safeguard its unlawful party assets.

He was referring to the DPP-initiated referendum on forcing the KMT to return its stolen party assets and another referendum proposal seeking entry to the UN using the name Taiwan. The second proposal is likely to take place on March 22 in conjunction with the presidential election.

At a separate setting yesterday, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) urged Hau to negotiate with the CEC on the matter instead of encouraging a "revolt against the central government."

"Confrontation between the central and local governments will only put the people at a disadvantage" and would not contribute to the nation's development, Hsieh said.

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