CEC approves simultaneous elections

MOVING GOALPOSTS?:Critics of combined elections say the move is ‘tailor-made’ to help the president’s re-election bid, and would cause a protracted ‘lame duck’ period

By Lin Shu-huiand Chen Hui-ping  /  Staff Reporters

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 - Page 1

The Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday decided to hold the next presidential and legislative elections together, a move likely to set a precedent in which there would be a four-month gap between the presidential election and the day the president and vice president take office.

Based on existing rules, the next presidential poll is scheduled for March next year, while the next legislative elections are likely to be held this December or in January next year. Until now, the legislative was usually inaugurated on Feb. 1, while the presidential inauguration has always taken place on May 20.

Following the decision reached after a three-hour discussion between CEC members, it is likely that the presidential election will be moved forward because the law requires that legislative elections be held before a new legislative session starts on Feb. 1.

Central Election Commission Chairperson Chang Po-ya (張博雅) told a press conference yesterday evening that the decision was the result of a consensus reached by CEC members.

“No one [in the commission] was against the combined elections,” Chang said.

The decision was made to reduce social costs and political mobilization, and can save about NT$500 million for the election fund, she said.

Central Election Commission Vice Chairman Liu Yi-chou (劉義周) added that “there is no political consideration.”

“The commission is only in charge of election matters. Whether the Constitution needs be amended or not should be a problem solved by the Chinese Nationalist Pary (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), not the commission,” Liu said when asked whether the merged elections could cause a constitutional crisis, given the long gap between the presidential election and the presidential inauguration.

Democracy has been in place for such a long time now that there should be no need to worry about a window period, Chang said.

She said that both the Constitution and laws have explicitly stated regulations governing the implementation and exercise of governmental operation

“There isn’t a Constitutional window period issue,” Chang said.

She said the commission would next discuss the combined election date with the county election committees, and report it to the next meeting for further discussion.

Speculation that it may take place on Jan. 21 was false, because that was too close to the Lunar New Year, Chang said.

Lin Yi-shih (林益世), executive director of the KMT’s Policy Committee, yesterday welcomed the CEC decision.

The DPP, on the other hand, expressed opposition to the proposed changes, saying that while it supported “reasonable revisions,” the current proposal would skew the election results in favor of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

“The KMT is attempting to change the rules of the game before the presidential elections. The changes are tailor-made to help President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election bid,” DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said yesterday.

Lin said that any changes to the election date must take place through legislative revisions that would enshrine the combined elections in law, rather than arbitrarily having to tackle the issue every four years.

The party has also expressed concerns that the revision would cause an extended “lame duck” period of four months before the president-elect takes office, which by law must occur in May.

“President Ma will have to take responsibility if this results in any problems,” Lin said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VINCENT Y. CHAO