Mon, Apr 12, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Mr. Smiles and Sunshine feels the political pressure

ELECTION AFTERMATH The head of the Central Election Commission is known for his jovial personality, but the refusal of the pan-blue camp to concede defeat has shown he has an angry side as well

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Central Election Commission Chairman Huang Shih-cheng, known for his cheerful personality, makes a habit of smiling at press conferences.

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Huang Shih-cheng (黃石城) has lost his temper in public twice since the presidential election, both times while facing legislators.

Huang's anger took the media by surprise as he is known for his cheerful demeanor, even during the toughest moments of dealing with election issues.

With the referendums on March 20 a first for the country, both political camps had been waiting to see how the CEC would handle vote.

Everything from ballot pickup, to the casting of ballots to ballot counting to the validity of miscast votes had generated controversy.

Whether it is presiding over commission meetings or speaking with reporters at press conferences, Huang usually manages to keep his calm and his sense of humor.

"Make sure you get nice shots of me," he told a group of photographers at an informal press session two weeks ago, setting off roars of laughter.

Joking about with the media is part of Huang's style.

Huang was born in 1935 in Changhua County. He received a law degree from National Soochow University, followed by a doctorate from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

From 1981 to 1989 he was the commissioner of Changhua County.

In the early 1990s he was a minister without portfolio. Between 1996 and 2000, he was a national policy adviser to then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). In 1997, he was appointed as a CEC commissioner. In 2000 he was made the chairman of the CEC.

Besides his career, Huang is active in the athletic and cultural communities. Since the early 1990s, he has been involved with the National Cultural Association, of which is currently vice president, and the Chinese-Taipei Football Association, of which he is president.

Huang gets up at 5am every day and goes for a run.

Huang took offence when, on Wednesday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) referred to him as an old man.

"I run 5km a day. Can you do that?" Huang said.

Huang, practical by nature, does not like beating about the bush.

"In order to solve a problem, one not only has to explain the problem, but has to solve it," Huang says.

The CEC had its hands full trying to hold the referendum and the presidential election at the same time.

The CEC was under attack by both the pan-blue and pan-green camps. Huang, who once suffered a stroke, went through a lot of stress; however, as an experienced politician, he managed to get through the hard times.

Despite operating within a politically polarized society, Huang, who is independent of any political party, has to stay firm in his belief of neutrality and fairness. On numerous occasions, he has stressed that the CEC represents these values in its operations.

Nevertheless, due to the large number of invalid ballots in the presidential election, the CEC was accused by the pan-blue camp of allowing election workers to rig ballots at polling stations.

The election-related tension led to violence on March 27, when angry protesters smashed the glass doors of the CEC building to block the commission from posting the official results of the election on a bulletin board.

Liao I-ming (廖義銘), assistant professor in the department of government and law at the National University of Kaohsiung, said: "Throughout the turmoil of this past election, history has given Huang an opportunity to set an example as a wise politician."

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