Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet shrugs off poll rumors

CONSIDERING THE STEPS The premier refused to comment on a newspaper report that the Executive Yuan was considering taking over the running of the Jan. 12 polls

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Cabinet was tight-lipped yesterday over rumors that the central government might take over the running of elections from pan-blue-led local governments to implement the Central Election Commission's (CEC) decision to distribute election and referendum ballots together for the Jan. 12 legislative elections.

When asked by reporters to comment on the matter, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said: "I will leave it up to the Central Election Commission to assess the possibility."

The CEC decided to adopt a one-step voting procedure, whereby voters will receive two ballots for the legislative elections and two referendum ballots when they enter the polling station and then cast them into four different boxes.

Eighteen pan-blue local government chiefs, however, have insisted their administrations will use a two-step voting process, whereby voters first cast their legislative election ballots and then be given their referendum ballots.

A report in yesterday's Chinese-language United Daily News quoted an anonymous source as saying that Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) met with CEC Chairman Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄) on Monday, and they came up with the idea of the central government taking over the elections.

However, the Cabinet denied yesterday that Chiou had met with Chang Cheng-hsiung on Monday.

A Cabinet statement blasted the United Daily News report as "groundless" and demanded that the paper publish a correction today.

The United Daily News report came two days after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) told an election rally that one option for ending the debate over voting procedure was to replace local election commission officials who refuse to implement the CEC decision.

In related news, CEC Secretary-General Cheng Tien-you (鄭天祐) said yesterday he had not received any instructions from the central government about replacing local election commission heads opposed to the one-step voting system.

"What's the point of having local election commissions if the CEC has to take over everything?" Cheng said.

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Hsu Guo-yong (徐國勇) and Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) said Article 76 of the Local Government Act (地方制度法) authorizes the CEC to override local election commissions if they are found to be unfit to carry out their role.

"The local election commissions are entitled to appeal to the CEC if they find it difficult to carry out the procedure," Hsu said.

"However, we have received no such appeal from either the Taipei County or city government. Instead, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) has threatened to arrest the president if he insists on casting his ballot via the one-step voting system," Hsu said.

Hsu said Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) had made the same threat to Democratic Progressive Party vice-presidential candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus slammed Chiou yesterday, saying the central government does not have the power to override local governments' authority to handle electoral affairs.

KMT caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) told a press conference that the DPP was attempting to cause chaos on election day by insisting on the one-step voting procedure.

"Wake up, DPP and stop trying to win the race by stirring up confrontations. Don't hog political power when it is time for you to give it up," she said.

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