An international election watchdog group yesterday expressed concerns about intelligence authorities’ reported monitoring of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in Taiwan’s presidential election and called for an immediate and independent investigation into the matter to ensure a fair election.
Reported spying on Tsai by the National Security Council (NSC), Taiwan’s top intelligence agency, and the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation “could put Taiwan’s democracy and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) integrity in jeopardy,” the vice chairman of the the International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan (ICFET), Wu Li-pei (吳澧培), told a press conference in Taipei.
The committee of more than 80 international and domestic politicians, academics and democracy advocates was established on Dec. 15 and advocates free and fair elections as well as a peaceful transition of power.
The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported on Wednesday that NSC Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen (胡為真) had asked the investigation bureau in May to monitor Tsai and that it had submitted information it gathered to Ma.
Tsai and the DPP have condemned Ma for the alleged monitoring and asked the president for an explanation.
Ma, who is seeking re-election, rejected the report, saying he was not aware of the practice and would punish responsible officials if the report turned out to be true.
While all reportedly related parties have also denied any illegal monitoring, none of them denied the existence of a form that was obtained and published by the magazine that details Tsai’s schedules, meetings, contacts and the possible number of votes at stake, Wu said.
The alleged monitoring, which the DPP has dubbed “Taiwan’s Watergate,” is “actually more serious than the Watergate scandal [in the US] in 1972,” Wu said, because active government officials were allegedly involved in this scandal, while then-US president Richard Nixon hired former government employees to steal information from his opponent.
“ICFET calls on President Ma to immediately order the special prosecutors to secure all related documents and material, to form an independent commission to conduct a fair investigation of the documents and to conclude the investigation before the polling day,” the committee said in a press release.
“If the commission finds that the report is not accurate, President Ma will have proven his innocence. And if the commission finds that Ma and the bureau have violated the law, Taiwan’s voters will certainly have a better knowledge to make their decision on the polling day,” it added.
Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), former Taiwanese representative to the US, said he was concerned that Ma had committed identical mistakes to Nixon — capitalizing on the state apparatus to spy on political opponents and then lying to cover it up.
Taiwan could learn from the US’ management of Watergate, said DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), who serves as the committee’s executive director. This included extensive media coverage, the appointment of a special prosecutor, the establishment of an independent commission and the president’s eventual impeachment by the US Congress, so that public trust in the government would not be jeopardized.
However, it was more than the alleged monitoring case that had focused the committee’s attention on possible government intervention in the elections.