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Wed, Aug 08, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Recess no time to relax for lawmakers

NO REST FOR THE WEARY The upcoming year-end legislative elections mean only one thing for battle-weary legislators -- campaign, campaign, campaign

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

This summer recess is really no recess at all for many lawmakers. Most maintain a tight itinerary, attending social functions from day to night in the hope of forging closer ties with their constituents.

People First Party legislator Chen Chao-jung (陳朝榮) took a two-hour nap at his office in the legislature. Aides hesitated to wake him up, noting he had not gone to bed until two in the morning and he got up at seven.

"He plans to catch a flight back to his constituency in Changhua [in central Taiwan] later in the afternoon," said his top aide Chen Yen-chih (陳彥智)."Then he is to whirl through a series of public events, giving brief speeches and wooing attendees."

In the morning, the lawmaker met with Changhua government officials and toured areas affected by Typhoon Toraji, according to his aide. He flew to Taipei before noon to attend a PFP legislative caucus meeting that lasted for nearly three hours.

"During an election year, an elected official does not have the luxury of vacation," Chen Yen-chih said, adding that it is not unusual for his boss, who is seeking a second-term in December, to pack in as many as 30 social functions a day.

New Party lawmaker Cheng Long-shui (鄭龍水), seeking a seat in Keelung, said he works 16 hours a day despite the recess. Yesterday, he got up at 5am, saying hello to joggers and folk dancers in a local park. He then attended a news conference sponsored by the opposition alliance to call for unity and hit the campaign trail again right after that.

"I probably won't get home until night," he said, adding that he called off any recess vacation plans last winter. Although Cheng once suffered from a stomach ulcer, the lawmaker said he will continue with his busy schedule in the run-up to the election, which he estimated would consume the bulk of his energy even after the new session begins in September.

Non-stop campaigning

* Every weekend, legislators attend funerals in the morning and weddings in the evening to make contact with constituents.

* During the week, the election hopefuls attend an endless series of public events to make speeches and woo the voters.

"I will pay special attention to bills that have a bearing on the welfare of my constituents. Otherwise, I plan to focus on the campaigning," Cheng said frankly. He has lost 5kg in the last four months.

On top of the agenda for candidates eyeing elected office are funeral services and wedding banquets, most of which take place on weekends.

"Weekends mark the busiest time, as we have to attend several such occasions every week," said DPP lawmaker Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰), who says the affairs are essential in meeting local opinion leaders. Normally, candidates attend funeral services in the morning and wedding banquets in the evening, in conformity with local custom.

For Cho, a freshman legislator, the summer break is an opportunity to forge ties with his constituents, since he spends most of his time reviewing bills when the legislature is in session.

On Monday, he toured Shihling and Peitou districts and plans to make a similar trip to Nankang today. Large apartment complexes, marketplaces, and companies are all important destinations for him.

"Because of the election, I don't have as much control over my daily life," Cho said, predicting he will lose 3kg to 5kg when campaigning heats up.

To allow themselves time to campaign, lawmakers across party lines have reached a consensus on a one-month recess at the end of October, postponing a review of 2002 fiscal spending plans until after the year-end elections.

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