Academics from top European institutes said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has declined to fund their visit to monitor the January elections in Taiwan, a development that follows upon similar claims by Australian academics last month.
A European source told the Taipei Times on Wednesday that the European academic election observers group, whose members would have drawn from three of the most influential think tanks in Europe — Chatham House, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP Berlin) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute — had been informed that the ministry would not provide funding for their visit.
The source said the ministry had provided financial assistance to the European observer group for the 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential and legislative elections — under the administration of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), then of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), and the Democratic Progressive Party.
This would mark the first time that the group would not be able to come to Taiwan, the source said, adding that the ministry did not provide reasons for the decision.
This development comes after claims by Australian academics last month that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canberra had informed them that the ministry would delay funding for a delegation of academic observers until late January, or after the elections.
That decision allegedly came one month after the ministry had said that it would cover flights and accommodation for their stay during the Jan. 14 elections.
Ministry spokesman James Chang (章計平) at the time denied the ministry had instructed overseas missions to arrange visits for international election observers after the election date, adding that the ministry welcomed election observers and was willing to provide “administrative assistance.”
Some Australian academics confirmed they would nevertheless come to Taiwan to monitor the election.
A source at the ministry yesterday said that the ministry “welcomed all foreign friends” to come to Taiwan to observe the nation’s democratic development, adding that the ministry would provide administrative assistance to observer groups, such as visits to the Central Election Commission, on a “case-by-case basis.”
Although the ministry would not fund airfare to Taiwan, the ministry did not rule out providing some form of financial assistance to certain observer groups, the source said, without giving further details.
Asked whether the decision not to provide financial assistance to foreign observer groups was the result of a higher number of applications compared with previous elections, the source said she had no comparative data to determine whether that was the case.