Mon, Jun 18, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Analysis: Kaohsiung mayorship annulment could benefit DPP

UNEXPECTED HELP The court's decision to annul the results of the Kaohsiung vote could lead to accusations of overinterpretation that could help the DPP next year

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Six months after the Kaohsiung mayoral election, the Kaohsiung District Court dropped a bombshell on the nation's politics with a ruling on Friday annulling Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu's (陳菊) victory in last December's Kaohsiung mayoral election.

The verdict was one of a kind as it was the first time in Taiwanese electoral history that the result of an election at the municipal level had been nullified.

The court said it made its decision on the grounds that the airing of a videotape by Chen's camp late on the eve of the election -- when all campaigning activities were supposed to have ended -- accusing Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) candidate Huang Chun-ying (黃俊英) of vote-buying violated election laws and cost Huang the election.

Huang filed two suits against Chen's camp after losing the election by 1,114 votes, asking the court to invalidate the election and annul Chen's victory.

The court on Friday rejected the first suit but upheld the second. While Chen said she will appeal the second case, Huang has decided to appeal the first case.

For Huang, who had resumed his teaching job at Kaohsiung's I-shou University, the ruling annulling Chen's victory came as great news.

For Chen, who was recently discharged from hospital after a 45-day stay for treatment of minor stroke, an appeal to the Taiwan High Court was an inevitable choice because it would be political suicide to accept the ruling.

The Public Official Election and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法) states that a winning candidate who loses an annulment lawsuit under the scenarios that he or she coerced, threatened or resorted to illegal means to interfere with other parties' electoral campaigns or others' right to vote -- as in this case -- would be barred from running in a by-election.

Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleagues all threw their full support behind her decision, except DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who on Friday advised Chen to give up the appeal and allow Kaohsiung residents to decide who would lead the city through a by-election.

Kuan's suggestion raised eyebrows, with some wondering if she might not have made the remark out of a personal interest.

Kuan lost the primary to Chen by winning only 20.76 percent of the party's member votes and scoring 22.24 percent in the second-stage public survey.

Kuan, however, defended herself yesterday, saying that she was unaware of the fact that Chen would be barred from running in a by-election if she had not appealed.

"This regulation was amended by the pan-blue camp after the 319 shooting case in 2004," she said. "Most people were not aware of this fact until yesterday [Saturday]."

"When I made my statement [to suggest Chen give up the appeal], I made it very clear that she would win in a by-election by appealing to voters' sympathy," she said.

Whether Kuan meant what she said still remains to be determined, but one thing is for sure -- the district court's ruling may have put Chen in an unfavorable condition as the legitimacy of her mayorship may be challenged by the pan-blues, who dominate the Kaohsiung City Council.

There are still six months to go before the Taiwan High Court renders the final verdict following Chen's appeal, but Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Chuang Chi-wang (莊啟旺), a KMT member, has demanded Chen step down, adding that pan-blue city councilors will take further action soon. He didn't elaborate.

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