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Thu, Dec 07, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Election law proposal seen as unfair

RIGHT TO REPRESENT Proposed revisions to electoral and recall laws would prevent those accused of crimes from running for office. Some lawmakers, however, said the proposal violated the idea of `innocent until proven guilty'

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers yesterday said the Executive Yuan's proposed revisions to the Public Officials Election and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法) were debatable, because they might hamper people's fundamental rights to participate in politics.

The proposed revisions would block those individuals who are suspected of crimes which carry possible punishment of 10 years to death and those with gangster or criminal backgrounds from serving as public representatives.

"We are supportive of the direction in which the revisions are heading, but we should consider whether the revisions would affect people's right to participate in politics," said Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), convener of the New Party caucus in the legislature.

While those who have been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment under the Organized Crime Prevention Act (組織犯罪防制條例) would be prohibited from running for public office for the rest of their lives, those who go through the government's anti-racketeer programs would also be banned from running within 10 years of completing the program.

Those given suspended sentences would be prohibited from candidacy during periods of probation, as well.

Chen Chen-sheng (陳振盛), convener of the People First Party caucus, said though the goal of the proposed revisions is consistent with public expectations of political reform, their spirit is against the principle of most countries' legal systems, including Taiwan's.

Chen pointed out that it is a basic principle that people are considered innocent before they are convicted.

"When we try to go beyond this legal spirit to impose these strict rules, we will risk losing the legitimacy for pushing this legislation," Chen warned.

In addition, Chen said the proposed revisions tend to deny former convicts the chance to turn over a new leaf.

"People who have been penalized by the law and paid the price should be given a chance to give back to society," Chen argued.

Meanwhile, Lai said it was too strict to bar people from running for office if they are on probation, because people can easily get such a sentence, even for a minor offense.

"For example, people may be sentenced for forgetting to pay taxes," Lai said.

Lai predicted that there was still a long way to go before the proposed revisions would gain passage through the legislature, in light of the fact that a number of the legislators are the subject of judicial proceedings themselves.

According to data released by the Ministry of Justice in September 1999, a total of 35 legislators were the subject of judicial proceedings.

Among deputies to city and county councils, 109 were reported to be undergoing judicial proceedings. Meanwhile, 47 township councilors fell into that category.

DPP Legislator Tsai Ming-hsien (蔡明憲), however, said the bill's passage depended mostly on the KMT's ability to resist pressure from grassroots politicians who are known for their connections with gangsters or have gangster backgrounds themselves.

KMT Legislator Chen Horng-Chi (陳鴻基), however, said he believes the KMT must face up to the public's expectations and rid politics of the influence of gangsters and that the KMT had no reason to oppose the reform.

"The `black gold' connection was the cause of the KMT's failure [in the presidential election]. It [the party] won't win public support unless it faces up to the problem," Chen said.

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