As legislative hopefuls gear up for their campaigns ahead of the Jan. 12 legislative elections, last Friday's ruling on vote-buying allegations concerning the Kaohsiung mayoral election risks generating more controversy before their campaigns are over, political analysts said.
The Kaohsiung District Court acquitted Ku Hsin-ming (
The allegations surfaced when the campaign camp of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) mayoral candidate, Chen Chu (
After Chen won the election, Huang went to court, demanding the election results be annulled on the basis that Chen's midnight press conference left him no time to respond to the accusation, thereby causing his defeat by the razor-thin margin of 1,140 votes.
Huang won in the first trial against Chen, but lost in the second and final trial on Nov. 16, in which the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court said Chen's victory was valid.
Ku later admitted that he had rented two buses to transport voters to an election rally for Huang on the eve of the election and paid them on the return trip from the rally for their votes for "a candidate in the Kaohsiung mayoral election and a Kaohsiung City councilor candidate."
The court found that although the two defendants admitted they had paid NT$500 per person, the money should be considered payment for time and energy spent at the rally, rather than as a bribe as defined under the Public Officials Election and Recall Law (
The court said that payment made at campaign events organized by groups to solicit support for a specific candidate are not equivalent to vote-buying.
Kaohsiung Prosecutor Lin Yung-fu (
A "payment" is made by an employer to an employee, he said.
Ku offered individuals on the bus NT$500 each and asked them to vote for "a candidate in the Kaohsiung mayoral election and a Kaohsiung City councilor candidate," he said, adding that this does not meet the definition of payment for labor, and therefore constitutes a bribe.
The prosecutors have said they will appeal the ruling.
Chang Hsueh-ming (
Five supporters of Luo Wen-chia (
In another case, a campaign manager for Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) was found guilty in Kaohsiung last year, Chang said.
Chang said that prosecutors already suspected vote-buying would occur ahead of the legislative elections -- in particular because a new system will halve the number of legislative seats -- but the Kaoshiung District Court ruling risks sending the message that "walking fees" are an acceptable way to "solicit" votes, thereby increasing vote-buying activity.