The mayoral by-election in Jhunan Township (竹南) was revoked by the Miaoli County District Court yesterday after rivals complained the winner had violated the Local Government Act (地方制度法).
Former legislator Kang Shih-ju (康世儒) won the by-election, but former Miaoli County councilor Liao Ing-li (廖英利) complained that Kang’s victory violated the limitations on successive terms stipulated in the act, even though Kang said he had asked the Central Election Commission about his eligibility prior to running and had been told he could run.
Kang served as mayor of Jhunan Township from March 1, 2002, and was re-elected to a second term in 2006. He then ran for legislator in a by-election in the first constituency of Miaoli and won, leaving the mayoral office before his term expired on March 31, 2009.
Hsieh Ching-chuan (謝清泉) was elected to replace Kang as mayor and assumed the position on March 1, 2010. However, he died on Oct. 29 last year, prompting a by-election to replace him.
The law stipulates that a by-election must be held to replace officials who die, resign or are impeached, but have not served half of their term within three months of their vacating the office.
The commission told Kang that the first paragraph of Article 57 of the Local Government Act only applies to an individual who has run twice for the same office and won both times. If there is a break between the terms in office, it does not constitute a consecutive term, the commission said.
That paragraph also states that candidates elected into office may run for only one more term after their first four-year term is up.
However, the court, in reviewing the complaint, ruled that the meaning of the first paragraph of Article 57 should be strictly defined, therefore Kang’s election was annulled because the spirit of the law was to prevent “local directly elected officials from monopolizing political resources with long terms in office.”
It also cited paragraph 4 of Article 82 of the act, which states that the term of by-election candidates lasts only until the end of the original holder’s term in office and is seen as the completion of one term.
The commission’s interpretation of the first paragraph of Article 57 violated the spirit of the law, because Kang had already been re-elected Jhunan Township mayor once and so was barred from participating in any elections or by-elections for that position, the court ruled.
If the commission’s interpretation of the law was correct, an official could be in office for a full two terms and would be eligible to run in a by-election for whoever succeeded him or her, if that person passed away in office or was dismissed and would get at least two years in office for the by-election, the judges said. The official would also be able to run for successive terms after the by-election, allowing such a person to be in office for 14 out of 16 years.
The ruling can be appealed.
Kang called the ruling “an international joke.”
The election commission had already determined that he was eligible to run prior to the election, he said, so he did not understand why his eligibility was being annulled after he had already won the election. The court ruling meant all the government funds used in the election were wasted.
Kang said he would hold a press conference in Taipei after he receives the formal ruling notice and would invite foreign media so they can witness “the joke that Taiwan’s democracy has become.”