The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法), which lawmakers said returned the power to recall elected officials to the public after it was previously withheld due to high thresholds.
The act prior to amendment stipulated that for officials to be recalled more than half of eligible voters must ratify the proposal and at least half must then vote for the recall.
The amendment dropped the threshold for recall petitions from 2 percent of voters within the elected official’s constituency to 1 percent, while the number of signatures supporting the proposal was cut from 13 percent to 10 percent.
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
The amount of votes supporting the recall must reach at least a quarter of the original voting population of the constituency, down from half, with at least half voting for the recall.
The amendment also lifted the restrictions on campaign events, with all expenses occurred being tax-deductible. In addition, the restriction that a recall vote could not be held alongside another vote was removed.
The amendment also doubled the number of days for gathering petitions for the recall votes to 60 days for mayors and county commissioners, 40 days for county and city councilors and township mayors, and 20 days for township representatives and borough wardens.
Lawmakers had been divided on whether to retain a threshold for a recall vote, with the New Power Party (NPP) submitting a proposal to do away with such a limitation and adopt a “majority vote.”
The Legislative Yuan finally passed a version agreed upon by the People First Party (PFP) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which retained a threshold of a quarter of the original voting population of the constituency to guard against abuse of the recall system.
DPP lawmakers hailed the amendment as progress toward direct democracy, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers said the DPP might reap what it sowed should the government’s performance fail to satisfy the public.
DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said the NPP’s version would have caused no end of strife due to officials being recalled over every misstep, adding that the lowering of the thresholds would make it easier for voters to exercise their right to recall officials.
The DPP administration would suffer the side-effects of such legislation in years to come, KMT Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) said, adding that the party would have to take responsibility for all the policies implemented by a DPP-led legislature.
There have already been calls to recall DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), Lin said.
Whether the DPP has harmed its own interests by amending the law remains to be seen, Lin added.
PFP Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) said the public must have the rights to vote and recall, and the PFP supports the amendment, adding that any recall, so long as it is not politically motivated or based a sense of retribution, would be a good thing.
NPP Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said that despite the amendments not meeting the party’s expectations, it is a step in the right direction.
The NPP supported removing all of the thresholds as it felt that a simple majority would be the best method that represents public opinion, Hsu said.
Any form of threshold protects elected officials and infringes upon people’s rights, Hsu said.
The Project Appendectomy movement, which unsuccessfully sought to recall several KMT lawmakers following the Sunflower movement protests in 2014, issued a statement thanking the Legislative Yuan, saying that the amendment was not only a victory for the movement, but also “a victory for the people and a significant milestone for Taiwan’s democracy.”
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