Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 3 News List

CEC puts off regulation decision

HEATED DEBATE Commission members recommended by the pan-blue camp said that a rule that would delay elections in the case of disasters could be manipulated

By Loa Iok-sin and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Passage of a regulation to allow for changes in election dates or poll station locations in the case of natural disasters or other "unavoidable causes" was postponed yesterday as Central Election Commission (CEC) members debated the wording.

"Although all [commission] members considered the regulation necessary and urgent ... we felt that we needed to create a special team" to examine the regulation first, CEC Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu (鄧天佑) told a news conference after a four-hour meeting.

The CEC has delegated the task to a five-member team, he said.

"We're trying to pass the regulation in accordance with a new amendment to the Election and Recall Law of Civil Servants [公職人員選舉罷免法]," Teng said.

The amendment, passed by the legislature last month, stipulates that local election commissions can change election dates with the CEC's approval if "an election cannot proceed because of a natural disaster or other unavoidable cause."

A clause under the article requires the commission to draw up a regulation to stipulate how an election postponement should be handled.

In the draft regulation, "natural disaster" has been defined as a severe typhoon, earthquake or flood that could prevent voters from traveling to poll stations or damage poll stations.

However, commission members disagreed over the meaning of the words "unavoidable cause."

CEC members recommended by the pan-blue camp said the regulation was too ambiguous.

"We need to define clearly what `unavoidable' means" said Liu Kuang-hua (劉光華), a commission member recommended by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). "Does it include ... strikes, riots, wars and fires?"

Chao Shu-chien (趙叔鍵), a CEC member recommended by the People First Party, said President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) could manipulate the phrase "unavoidable" to postpone the legislative elections.

Teng, on the other hand, said the phrase was legal terminology that "also appears in the Election and Recall Law [of Civil Servants]."

Liu, however, said: "What was not an issue in the past won't necessarily not become an issue."

Although no timetable has been set for passage of the regulation, the CEC will pass it "as soon as possible so that it will be in place before the legislative elections," Teng said.

Earlier yesterday, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) warned the commission should not make a decision based on partisan motives.

"It's necessary to prepare for possible situations on election day, but it would be very inappropriate if such preparations were done with specific motives," Wang told reporters at the Legislative Yuan.

KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) lashed out at the CEC, calling it an "election tool" of the Democratic Progressive Party.

KMT caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said the DPP had a four-part strategy to ensure a win at the polls: disturbing election procedures, creating conflicts during the elections, postponing elections or declaring results invalid, and enforcing martial law.

"The CEC has never discussed this kind of draft [regulation] before. It will use the draft to reverse election results if they are bad for the DPP," Kuo said.

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