Facing criticism over a proposed amendment that would extend the number of appeals available to lawmakers convicted of vote-buying, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus decided to put off the review yesterday after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed concern to the caucus.
The KMT decided to cut short the legislative session, technically leaving the amendment to the Public Officials Election and Recall Law (公職人員選舉罷免法) that was on yesterday's session agenda for its second and third readings untackled.
The amendment came in for criticism not only because it would loosen regulations aimed at creating clean politics, but also because the KMT caucus had pushed hard for it after several KMT lawmakers were convicted of the crime.
KMT Legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) of Yunlin County had his election victory annulled in a first trial. Another KMT lawmaker, Lee E-tin (李乙廷) of Miaoli County also had his victory nullified in the second trial of another civil case.
The amendment, initiated by KMT Legislator Lin Tsang-min (林滄敏), proposed allowing elected officials convicted of vote-buying to appeal twice instead of once, as the current law stipulates.
Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said that the amendment would make it almost impossible for a lawmaker to exhaust his or her appeals against a vote-buying conviction before the end of his or her term.
KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) said the amendment was sponsored by some caucus members but was not presented in the name of the caucus.
“[The caucus] respects each lawmaker's right to present amendments to laws and regulations, but the caucus will also take concerns voiced over the bill into account,” Lin Yi-shih said.
Lin Yi-shih did not deny that the caucus had communicated the matter to Ma and party Chairman Wu Po-hsiung (吳伯雄), who is currently on a visit to China.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Office yesterday declined to confirm whether Ma had asked the KMT to block the proposed amendment.
“The president understands the situation and the public's expectations very well,” Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said.
Wang would not comment on whether Ma had discussed the issue with the KMT caucus.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday that Ma had called KMT Vice Chairman Wu Den-yi (吳敦義) and Lin Yi-shih, urging the caucus to take public opinion into consideration and reconsider the proposed amendment.
Wu Den-yi said the KMT respected the caucus' decision, but acknowledged that public reaction to the proposal was something the party had to consider.
Even though the proposed amendment would have certain positive impact on society, it was probably not an appropriate time for the party or the caucus to present the amendment, he said.