Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Minister pledges action on vote-buying

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Justice Morley Shih (施茂林) yesterday pledged to crack down on vote-buying ahead of elections of agricultural and fishery associations (農漁會).

"The elections will take place after the Lunar New Year holiday, so it is likely that candidates will bribe voters during the holiday," Shih said. "But I pledge that there is no `legal holiday' during the holiday; prosecutors nationwide will crack down on any vote-buying activities."

The Supreme Court Prosecutors Office will form a task force today to lead the crack down activity, and district prosecutors' offices nationwide will also form a task force today, Shih added.

The head of the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office, Chu Nan (朱楠), yesterday told reporters "traditionally people exchange gifts during the Lunar New Year holiday, so candidates running in the elections and leading members of these grassroots associations will likely try to bribe the electorate under the guise of New Year gifts."

"The Kaohsiung Prosecutors' Office has received a number of accusations ... and we will investigate these cases," he added.

In addition, Chu said, prosecutors will visit and communicate with electoral candidates in order to deter vote-buying.

Shih said that "clean agricultural and fishery associations' elections would create cleaner and healthier associations."

The agricultural and fishery associations have been seen as roots of `black gold' politics.

Local political faction leaders have been competing for leading posts in agricultural and fishery associations, and using the associations' credit cooperatives as illegal financial resources to bribe voters in a range of popular elections, Shih said.

Shih added that credit cooperatives of agricultural and fishery associations frequently grant illegal loans to people from local factions, creating the potential for financial crises.

The agricultural and fishery associations' elections will take place separately after the Lunar New Year holiday. The associations elect directors every four years.

President Chen planned to reform these associations and eradicate their credit cooperatives in 2002, but failed due to a demonstration in which over 120,000 people protested against the plan.

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