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Thu, Mar 15, 2001 - Page 3 News List

KMT thwarts DPP's anti-graft measures

NO SUPPORT Fearful that amendments designed to root out 'black gold' would undermine their support, the KMT has refused to play ball with the government

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite a plea for bi-partisan support by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Tuesday, a DPP plan to amend the Local Systems Law (地方制度法) to abolish elections at township and county municipality levels has gained little support from the KMT-dominated legislature. The reform would likely remove most of the grassroots political resources currently enjoyed by the KMT.

Cheng Yung-chin (鄭永金), whip of the KMT caucus in the legislature, yesterday argued that the change would destroy the foundation of autonomy at the local level and worsen the problem of "black gold" politics.

"The reforms run counter to democratic trends. If county commissioners are allowed to monopolize power, it will facilitate a collusion of common interests," Cheng said.

In such circumstances, the black gold problem would progress from the township and county municipality levels to the county level, Cheng added.

He said in order to fight corruption, the DPP government should step up its crackdown on criminal activities, rather than abolish the elections.

The proposed amendment, one of the DPP government's anti-black gold projects, was submitted to the Legislative Yuan in October of last year.

Under the bill, the mayors of townships and county municipalities would be appointed by county and provincial municipal governments after the terms of incumbent mayors expire on Feb. 28, 2002.

Township and county municipal councils would be abolished altogether.

The bill has made no progress in the legislature.

In a routine nine-member panel meeting headed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Tuesday, Chen called on opposition parties to support the amendment "in the national interest."

Chen reminded the opposition that the reform was an inter-party agreement reached during the National Development Conference of 1996, in which the KMT and DPP were key players.

James Chen (陳健治), however, a legislator and deputy director of the KMT's Policy Committee, said the DPP's push for the reform was a tactic to secure the support of local government heads in the year-end legislative race and elections for county and provincial municipality governments.

"The DPP is trying to threaten the mayors of townships and county municipalities into campaigning for the DPP. If they support other parties, they may not be able to keep their positions after the offices become appointed ones," Chen said.

For decades, the mayors of 309 rural and urban townships and county municipalities in Taiwan have been elected by popular vote.

Currently, over 80 percent of the township and county municipal mayors are from the KMT, most of them heads of local factions and opinion leaders who help the party gain support during election campaigns.

Local elections, however, have been criticized as a cause of vote-buying and black gold at the grassroots level.

The DPP now rules 12 of the total of 21 counties and provincial municipalities.

If the mayoralties of townships and county municipalities are to become appointed positions, political affiliation is likely to become the main factor in determining who secures the positions.

Despite the KMT's disapproval of the reform, Chou Po-lun (周伯倫), convener of the DPP caucus in the legislature, said his party will negotiate with the opposition parties to try to have the amendment passed before the current legislative session ends in July.

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