Defeated Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Douliou City (斗六) mayoral candidate Chang Tsung-ming (張聰明) yesterday filed a defamation lawsuit against Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), while the DPP demanded Tseng step down for his “indiscreet” remarks.
On Wednesday, Tseng said the judiciary had worked hard during the mayoral election and had stopped a campaign of alleged vote-buying by the losing side, while the other candidate was able to win because of her “excellent abilities.”
Chang lost to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Hsieh Shu-ya (謝淑亞) in Saturday’s by-election by about 2,000 votes.
Chang said he filed the lawsuit at the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office because Tseng had “insulted my integrity and character” and his remarks were not backed by evidence. He said he would file another lawsuit with the Yunlin Prosecutors’ Office today seeking to invalidate the election.
Tseng’s comments were “highly inappropriate” for a justice minister, who is supposed to maintain administrative neutrality and not interfere in individual cases, the DPP said.
“Tseng basically implied that Chang was involved in vote-buying without providing evidence,” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said, adding that the comment was like a personal “pledge of loyalty” by Tseng to the KMT.
“We demand Tseng apologize and step down immediately,” Tsai said.
If Tseng refuses to step down, the DPP said it would not rule out freezing the Ministry of Justice’s budget for the next fiscal year, Tsai said.
The Douliou mayoral post became vacant when former mayor Chien Ming-chin (簡明欽), a KMT member, was removed after being found guilty of vote-buying by donating NT$33,000 to a temple during the 2009 mayoral election.
Hsieh’s campaign hired Chien as its chief campaign manager and included others with records of vote-buying on its staff, said Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), the DPP’s lawyer.
Citing cases that have nullified more than a dozen KMT wins since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008, Hsu said the judiciary chose to turn a blind eye to a political party with a long history of vote-buying.
Tseng’s determination to eliminate vote-buying was questionable, DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said, because Kaohsiung Prosecutors’ Office chief Hsing Tai-chao (刑泰釗) would not have been transferred to Penghu otherwise.
Hsing received the top rating for his anti-vote-buying efforts.
Tseng had the day off yesterday. In his place at a press conference organized by the KMT legislative caucus, Deputy Justice Minster Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said Tseng had made the comment to encourage prosecutors to aggressively combat vote- buying, not to imply anyone had violated the law.
“Tseng did not mean there was vote-buying in Douliou. He only wanted to encourage everyone to stop vote-buying,” Chen said.
KMT caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) said she did not believe Tseng had insinuated that the DPP had tried to buy votes.
“What he said was well-intentioned and correct,” Chao said. “He did not accuse anyone. It is the DPP that stepped out and confessed.”
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan
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