Tue, Mar 19, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Top election official targets pork-barrel promises by local government chiefs

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

The chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) said yesterday that the government could solve a major aspect of election-associated corruption by extending the definition of "vote-buying" to include pork-barrel promises by incumbent local commissioners and township leaders during election campaigns.

Huang Shih-cheng (黃石城) made the comments when responding to a question by PFP legislator Chou Hsi-wei (周錫偉) yesterday as he outlined the CEC's policies to the Legislative Yuan's Home and Nations Committee.

Chou had commented that "some of the incumbent township leaders, county commissioners and city mayors take advantage of administrative resources for vote-buying, such as when they offer pensions during campaigns."

He then went on to ask whether the CEC should consider such use of administrative resources to be vote-buying.

Huang said that "taking advantage of administrative resources for vote-buying indeed affects the results of elections. If the Ministry of Justice was willing to list it as a form of vote-buying, this problem would be solved."

Officials from the ministry, however, said it is not up to them to make such a decision.

"We would respect the Ministry of the Interior's and the CEC's decision over the definition of vote-buying. But it would be tough to implement, since it will not be easy to define [pork-barrel politics]," said an official of the Ministry of Justice, Hong Kuan-shiuan.

The Public Officials Election and Recall Law (選罷法), grants responsibility for amending electoral regulations to the CEC and the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for enforcing the law.

Liu Wen-shih (劉文仕), director of the Ministry of the Interior's Department of Civil Affairs, said that there is currently no plan to revise the law, especially since "incumbent commissioners and township leaders' social welfare promises must undergo certain procedures, such as enactment by local councils."

Lawmakers from different parties, including PFP legislator Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠), KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) and DPP legislator Wang Tuoh (王拓), all said that it would be "extremely difficult" to achieve a definition of vote-buying that embraced matters of proposed policy.

Also at yesterday's committee meeting, DPP legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and PFP lawmaker Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠), urged the CEC to revise the Election and Recall Law to allow political parties to nominate joint candidates for elections.

"It's common for political parties to cooperate for elections involving only one post, such as county commissioners and mayoral elections," Chen said.

Huang promised to evaluate the matter within six months.

According to the law, political parties may nominate one member for each post. But the law is unclear as to whether parties may nominate candidates from other parties.

The CEC also promised DPP legislator Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) that it will evaluate whether the legislature should be reduced by half within three months.

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