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Tue, Mar 13, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers rush to reform election law before April 1

GRAFT In an effort to thwart corruption in the coming party primaries, legislators have finalized a new proposal that would punish vote-buying with jail terms and hefty fines

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature's Home and Nations Committee yesterday finished a preliminary review of a proposed amendment to the Public Officials Elections and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法) to fight the problem of vote-buying in primary ballots held by political parties.

The plan is to include this proposal on Thursday's agenda for the Legislative Yuan.

Under the amendment, vote-buying in party primaries would be penalized by the same standards as those that apply to the election of public officials.

People engaging in vote-buying in primaries could face imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to NT$6 million. Those who do so for profit -- such as the go-between in a vote-buying deal -- could face imprisonment of up to seven years and fines of up to NT$5 million.

"At present, law-enforcement authorities are not empowered to investigate vote-buying practices in party primaries. There would be a legal basis to conduct such investigations after the amendment," said DPP Legislator Chang Ching-fang (張清芳), a key proponent of the amendment.

Chang said the DPP is seeking to have the amendment passed as soon as possible, so that it could be put into force by April 1.

The DPP is set to hold a primary ballot of party members on April 1 as part of a procedure to decide its nominees for the year-end legislative elections.

Chang was among a group of 31 DPP legislators who first raised the proposal to amend the law last week, following reports suggesting rampant vote-buying practices in campaign activities leading up to the primary ballot.

Chang noted that the problem of vote-buying had in fact already occurred in primary ballots held by the DPP in the past, but that the lack of investigative power had always been an obstacle hampering actions taken by the party leadership against the practices.

According to Chang, most of the vote-buying cases in the DPP are connected with the existence of so-called "figurehead party members," who are usually recruited by a middleman for the mere purpose of gaining the qualification to cast votes in the DPP ballots.

The middleman makes a profit by selling the votes that he controls to candidates wishing to purchase them.

Meanwhile, a similar problem has recently been reported within the KMT, which is to hold a primary ballot for the very first time on May 5 to decide its nominees for the legislative elections.

KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) said the amendment is a crucial step stopping corruption.

"We don't wish to see high-caliber politicians lose unfairly [in the primaries] to corrupt politicians," Chen said.

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