Thu, Dec 27, 2007 - Page 1 News List

CEC moves to fire local election chiefs

AMENDMENTS Pan-blues slammed the CEC's passage of rules that call for the removal of local election commissioners who engage in `illegal conduct' or abandon their duties

By Loa Iok-sin, Mo Yan-chih, Shih Hsiu-chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Amid heated debate, the Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday approved regulations that would allow the premier to remove local election commission members from office upon the CEC's request.

The move is seen by many pan-blue politicians as a measure giving the Cabinet the power to replace local election commission members who insist on adopting the two-step voting scheme.

The CEC on Nov. 16 decided to adopt a one-step voting procedure, with both election and referendum ballots being handed out to voters at the entrance of polling stations when two referendums are held simultaneously with the legislative elections on Jan. 12.

Pan-blue camp politicians and the heads of 18 pan-blue controlled cities and counties have insisted on adopting a two-step voting scheme in which voters will have to cast their election ballot first before getting the referendum ballots.

The controversy heightened when the Cabinet recently said it might replace local election commission heads that refused to abide by the CEC's rules."Taiwan's democracy is facing its biggest threat. The CEC should be a neutral and fair organization, but it has become an election tool controlled by President Chen Shui-bian [陳水扁]," Wu said at KMT headquarters yesterday.

In response to Hsinchu Mayor Lin Junq-tzer's (林政則) decision to resign as the city's election commissioner, Huang Yu-cheng (黃玉振), commissioner of the KMT's cultural and communication committee, said it was Lin's decision and that other commissioners supported two-step voting.

"Local commissioners and commission members have rich experience in handling election affairs and they will not be intimidated easily by the Cabinet or the CEC," Huang said.

Acting commissioner of Taitung County Election Commission Chuang Chiong-wen (莊炯文), however, announced his resignation later yesterday afternoon.

Chuang said he left the post to avoid conflict with Taitung County Commissioner Kwong Li-jen (鄺麗貞), who supports two-step voting.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday declined to discuss the issue and said that the city government would handle the dispute in accordance with the law.

Taoyuan County Commissioner Chu Li-lun (朱立倫) and Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋), on the other hand, both stressed that their election commissions would stick to the two-step voting mechanism, urging the Cabinet and Presidential Office not to intervene with election affairs and damage the CEC's neutrality.

"More than 90 percent of commission members have agreed to adopt the two-step voting system. We haven't changed our position," Chu said yesterday before attending a municipal event in Taipei.

Chou dared the CEC to change not only local commissioners, but also tens of thousands of front-line election personnel if it could find enough staff members.

Meanwhile, Vice Premier Chiou I-yen (邱義仁), the man tasked with solving the dispute on the voting format, said yesterday that he would rather take criticism for his "arbitrariness" than compromise with the pan-blue camp on the two-step voting procedure.

"We will do our best and use the most forceful measures to eliminate difficulties in implementing the one-step voting format," Chiou said at the Cabinet's year-end press conference.

There is certainly "a price to pay" as the pan-blue camp is still at loggerheads with the CEC over the voting format, but the country will pay "an ever higher price" if the government does not uphold one-step voting, Chiou said.

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