Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Parties agree on removal of `serious crimes' clause

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Facing public criticism, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday that parties across the spectrum were in agreement over the need to delete a proposed amendment to the Election and Recall Law of Civil Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法) that would ban people convicted of serious crimes from running in elections.

"Everyone [involved in negotiations] agreed [to reconsider the clause]," Wang said when approached by reporters in the legislature.

Wang was responding to public criticism over the legislature's approval on Tuesday of a proposal initiated by Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) Legislator Yen Chin-piao (顏清標) to reconsider the clause.

The clause sought to ban from elections anyone who has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, life in prison or death but whose case is still on appeal from running in an election. It passed a second reading on Oct 26.

Yen, who is appealing a 20-year term for corruption and other charges, said on Oct. 31 the article should be reconsidered.

During the plenary session on Tuesday, Wang said there was cross-party consensus on dropping the clause without resorting to a vote before proceeding to a third reading of the Election and Recall Law of Civil Servants in its entirety.

Wang said yesterday that representatives from each caucus agreed the article could violate people's rights to participate in politics, adding that it also went against the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."

"Legislative candidates' registration begins in two weeks. It would be unfair and unreasonable to impose such a restriction now. All party caucuses agreed on the matter," he said.

Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), who participated in the negotiations, said on Tuesday that the NPSU caucus had threatened to boycott the legislature's effort to amend the law by demanding that every single article of the law be considered if other party caucuses did not agree with Yen's proposal.

Wang, however, said yesterday he had followed the rules of legislative procedure in his handling of Yen's proposal, adding that every caucus has the authority to propose the reconsideration of a bill.

"Besides, no one in the plenary session objected to the decision. So we did what we had to do. Is someone trying to shirk responsibility and shift the blame onto someone else?" he said.

Wang said that Yen's proposal was not the focus of the negotiations and that most of the debate had focused on whether different political parties could jointly nominate candidates and whether investigation into vote-buying should only begin after a candidate's registration.

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