Mon, Jun 21, 2004 - Page 3 News List

New CEC head will have to walk a fine line

CONTROVERSIAL Chang Cheng-hsiung's appointment as chairman of the Central Election Commission caused an aproar, with accusations of a pan-green bias flung around


Last Thursday the Central Election Commission (CEC) welcomed its new chairman, Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄), whose appointment was met with strong oppositions from the pan-blue camp as well as independent lawmakers, as Chang's actions in the past seemed to indicate that he leaned toward a pro-green point of view.

In his inauguration speech, Chang promised that he would remain impartial and strive to maintain fairness during his chairmanship.

According to the statute governing the organization of the CEC, the council should consist of 11 to 19 members, including the chairman, and the tenure of each member is three years. The premier makes the appointments pending the approval of the president.

However, according to the newly passed Organic Standard Law of the Central Government Agencies, 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.

Chang, born in 1941, has never been amember of any political party, has been an attorney-at-law for 37 years and is known for his work as defense attorney for the people arrested during the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident.

Although Chang claimed to be independent from any political party, his relationship with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) goes back a long way.

Last year, when the DPP hired five prestigious lawyers who were not members of the party to conduct investigations of election bribery among legislators at large, Chang was one of the five attorneys chosen to join the taskforce.

Although he is not a long-term CEC member, his active participation in discussions won him the opportunity to preside over the third televised referendum debate this year. Toward the end of the debate, Chang made a closing remark that the national referendum was in complete agreement with the law. His bold move resulted in an outcry from some viewers.

Furthermore, Chang's name later appeared on a full-page pro-referendum advertisement, along with the names of several former judges and prominent legal professionals.

"The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is strongly opposed to Chang's appointment as the chairman of the CEC. As Chang was in favor of holding the referendum on the same day as the presidential and vice-presidential election, his biased political stance was obvious. His appointment as the chairman of the CEC, an organization which is supposed to be neutral, showed that he was assigned to be the executor of the will of DPP and the Cabinet," KMT Legislator Huang Teh-fu said in a telephone interview.

Independent Legislator Su Ying-kuei (蘇盈貴) said that the government failed to show its impartiality by appointing Chang as the head of the CEC.

"Although a government is supposed to be neutral, we do not expect it to be totally so. However, certain government offices, such as the CEC, should particularly illustrate their professionalism and neutrality. The government was irresponsible to allow such a biased person to be picked as the chairman and I am terribly disappointed in our government for making such a decision," Su said.

Su claimed that through his close acquaintance with former CEC chairman Huang Shih-cheng (黃石城), he learned that Chang had made an attempt in CEC meetings to combine the logistics of both the referendum and the presidential and vice-operation election at ballot casting centers, which might result in mix-ups of ballots.

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