Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Premier appoints new CEC chairman

TOO SOON The opposition expressed strong reservations about the choice of the new Central Election Council head, who they said had pro-independence leanings

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite opposition from pan-blue lawmakers, Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday designated Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄) as the new chairman of the Central Election Council (CEC). In addition to Chang and 12 other members appointed by Yu, the legislative caucuses of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Part (PFP) will each designate one more member to make up the 16-person council.

According to the statute governing the organization of the CEC, the council should have 11 to 19 council members, including the council chairman. Their tenure is three years. The premier makes the appointments, pending the approval of the president. The council's current term is due to expire tomorrow.

However, according to the newly passed Organic Standard Law of the Central Government Agencies (中央政府機關組織基準法), which has yet to be promulgated by the president, the appointment of the CEC's chairman and its members requires the approval of the legislature.

While opposition lawmakers did not object to any of the 12 members Yu nominated, they expressed strong reservations about Chang, who was criticized for having pro-independence leanings.

"We're not asking that the council chairman has to be one of our own, but that person has to be politically neutral, because the council is an independent institution," said KMT Legislator Huang Teh-fu (黃德福). "Besides, Chang has little experience in election affairs."

Although Chang is not a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member, he was appointed as a member of the CEC two years ago and serves in the council's five-member legal team.

In one of the lawsuits following in the wake of the presidential election, the opposition alliance accused the CEC of having failed to properly separate people when they were voting in the election and the referendum.

While the statute governing the CEC's structure does not require the legislature's approval for the appointment of the council's chairman and members, Huang said that the Cabinet should have waited until the Organic Standard Law of the Central Government Agencies takes effect before announcing the appointments.

The legislature passed the law on the last day of the legislative session on Friday. The new legislation gives the legislature the right to approve the heads of the government's five independent institutions, which includes the CEC.

PFP lawmaker Hsieh Chang-chieh (謝章捷) said that the caucus does not rule out the possibility of requesting a legal interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices.

"We're completely disappointed with the DPP government, which claims to respect democracy but in fact does exactly the opposite," Hsieh said. "We hope the DPP government exercises self-restraint and stops meddling in the CEC, which is supposed to be an independent government organ."

The Democratic Action Alliance (民主行動聯盟) also voiced opposition to Chang's appointment, calling him a "grave disgrace of the CEC."

"If he eventually becomes the head of the CEC, the council's reputation and credibility will go bankrupt and the nation's democracy will be severely trampled," said Hsieh Ta-ning (謝大寧), convener of the organization.

In response to the criticism, Chang said that he would exert himself to remain politically neutral in his new job.

"I've never been a DPP member, but I identify with the DPP administration's ideals such as safeguarding human rights and respecting the rule of law," Chang said. "I think my appointment has a lot to do with my insisting on pushing for reforms."

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