Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Liu I-chou (劉義周) yesterday said he would recommend the commission overturn fines against the Appendectomy Project after facing questions from lawmakers.
“I have always believed that Article 86 of the Civil Servants Election And Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) [forbidding publicizing ongoing recall campaigns] was out of step with the times and should not be enforced,” he said in response to questions from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lai Rui-lung (賴瑞隆) at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee.
A final decision on the matter would depend on the consensus of the commission as a whole, Liu said.
“While I do not believe fines should be levied in this case, I still do not know what recommendations other commission members will make,” he said.
The committee passed a resolution calling for the commission to consider canceling the fine because of concerns that Article 86 of the act is at odds with freedom of speech, while the legislature is considering amendments to the act.
Several legislators urged Liu to take a stand on the issue after the Taipei City Election Commission on Tuesday fined Appendectomy Project organizers NT$600,000 over publication activities last year related to a recall campaign targeting former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元).
The project sought to recall several KMT lawmakers following the Sunflower movement in 2014, but only forced a vote on Tsai, who survived after turnout did not reach the 50 percent required for a recall vote to be valid.
Lai said the fine is “extremely inappropriate,” citing a consensus among lawmakers, the Ministry of the Interior and the Central Election Commission that the article forbidding promotion of ongoing recall campaigns should be revised.
“They should have put the matter on hold until the newly elected legislature had a chance to handle the matter,” Lai said, adding that the Central Election Commission should overturn the fine.
The Taipei City Election Commission initially refused to issue the fine after ruling that the organizers had breached the act by promoting the then-ongoing recall campaign, recommending that the Central Election Commission seek a court ruling on the act’s constitutionality.
DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) — who also serves as Internal Administration Committee coconvener — accused the Central Election Commission of wrongly rejecting the recommendation, adding that the body should have sought a ruling given its stance that the provisions be revised.
The Central Election Commission’s report to the Internal Administration Committee yesterday said that it “supported” revising restrictions on the promotion of recall campaigns and “respected” calls to decrease the number of signatures required to trigger a vote.
It recommended against revising the 50 percent turnout threshold for results to be valid on the grounds that frequent recall votes would be wasteful.
Before the committee meeting, Liu said that the Central Election Commission would not overturn the Taipei City Election Commission’s decision “unless it was clearly illegal.”
DPP Legislator Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) called Liu “two-faced” — a reference to a traditional Taiwanese puppet show character who refuses to choose between good and evil, delighting chiefly in the defeat of others.