Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Vote-buying culture is a result of legal system: MOJ head

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials yesterday urged the public to help deter the vote-buying culture which has been a lingering scourge in local elections, since the current legal system seems to not be able to efficiently reduce corruption, as evidenced by the outcome of the legislative elections.

Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) and Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全), who are both DPP members, yesterday made special reports on the effect of the anti-vote-buying measures that the two ministers executed during the legislative elections, during the DPP's central standing committee meeting.

Facing questions about why candidates who were suspects in vote-buying cases were all elected, Chen said that the outcome was the result of Taiwan's legal system, which reviews vote-buying cases more slowly than felonies which require long prison sentences.

"According to our estimate, there are still about 20,000 cases awaiting trial, and most of them will be tried 10 years from now," Su said. "Therefore, the law is not very intimidating for those who bribe voters and those who accept bribes."

People who are convicted of vote-buying offenses can be sentenced to at least five years in prison, while bail is set at NT$30,000.

Su and Chen both stressed that they have done the best they could do to clamp down on vote-buying, yet inherent problems with the legal system seem to encourage such offenses.

DPP Legislator Kao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) voiced the same opinion, saying many vote-buying cases that were prosecuted three years ago did not bother the people involved at all, and many of the cases were not decided until years after the fact.

"Belated justice doesn't count as justice," Kao said, adding that trial procedures should be reformed.

DPP Central Standing Committee member Chou Ching-yu (周清玉), who failed in her legislative re-election bid in Changhua County, was unsatisfied with Su and Chen's report, saying it was too little, too late. Chou said she was the victim of vote-buying in Changhua.

"I think our courts should increase their efficiency in reviewing trials and announcing the verdict, which would be the fundamental solution," Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday. "Only more strict and more quick enforcement can really deter vote-buying."

Hsieh added that the by-election of Kaohisung City Councilors was the best evidence of his argument. City councilors involved in bribery two years ago were quickly sentenced, and reform occurred in the city council.

Su, Chen and Hsieh said that they could only expect the public to show its opinion power to check the vote-buying culture.

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