President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday pledged that he would not declare martial law during his term, urging all election officials to follow the Central Election Commission's (CEC) decision to distribute election and referendum ballots simultaneously during January's legislative elections.
"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law. Many people paid a high price during it, including losing their freedom and even their lives," Chen said while receiving guests at the Presidential Office yesterday morning. "There is no way we are going to turn back from the road to democracy."
Chen said he had presidential authority to impose martial law and some have suggested he do so to settle the controversy over the voting system for the legislative elections and the two referendums.
However, he said he would never declare martial law during his presidency.
"The public can rest assured on that," he said. "I am calling on my opponents to stop diverting attention, sullying the image of the administration and confusing the public."
The CEC has adopted a one-step voting procedure in which voters will receive two ballots for the legislative elections and two referendum ballots together and cast them into four different boxes.
Eighteen pan-blue local government chiefs, however, have insisted on following a two-step voting process, whereby voters first cast their legislative election ballots before receiving their referendum ballots.
Chen raised eyebrows on Sunday night when he said he was seriously considering four options -- implementing martial law, invalidating the election results in pan-blue controlled authorities, replacing local election commission heads, or getting the CEC to delay the elections -- during a campaign rally in Shulin (
Chen yesterday said he would leave it to the CEC and the other agencies concerned to decide how to deal with the controversy and that he did not have any particular preference.
As to whether a one-step or two-step voting system should be applied, Chen urged the public to accept the CEC's decision.
A two-step voting system was adopted in the 2000 presidential election because it had been the CEC's decision to do so, he said, and the CEC had decided to switch to a one-step voting system next year because it wanted to avoid the drawbacks that were experienced when the two-step practice was used.
Separately in Taipei yesterday, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) said it was unacceptable for local governments to constantly challenge the central government. Lu urged both sides to calm down and hammer out a plan to settle the matter.
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (
He urged the 18 local governments to cooperate with the CEC, saying that election personnel should be aware of the consequences of breaking the law.
The Cabinet has warned local governments that defying the CEC's one-step voting format is a criminal violation subject to prosecution. Heads of local governments and front-line election personnel would 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 the Discipline of Civil Servants (公務人員懲戒法).