The outgoing chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday expressed concern whether new commission members would be able to maintain their impartiality and questioned the government’s motivation in appointing a new panel with the year-end elections just a month away.
Chang Cheng-hsiung (張政雄) made the remarks during the handover to his successor, Lai Hao-min (賴浩敏).
Along with Lai, 10 other commission members also took office yesterday.
All 11 CEC members nominated by the Cabinet passed the legislative review on Tuesday afternoon, and their appointment followed in the evening.
However, the outgoing chairman said he was worried that the commission might not hear opposing voices because three of its 11 members are affiliated with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), eight have no party affiliation and none represents the opposition.
“If the CEC is controlled by the party in power and the opposition is not represented, the impartiality of electoral affairs may be affected,” Chang said. “The opposition had never been absent in the CEC before.”
He also questioned the government's intention in appointing a new commission right before the local elections on Dec. 5.
Chang said the term of the outgoing commission members does not end until next June, and “based on the law, the Cabinet is to nominate new members three months before CEC members’ term expires, which would be next March.”
By doing so, the government was compromising the CEC's legitimacy and may give rise to doubts as to why the government is so eager to reorganize the nation's top electoral authority right before the elections, Chang said. He said he handed over the chairmanship only to show his respect for the system of government.
“Wu said that reappointing commission members is to make the CEC more trustworthy, but I think what he did is just the opposite,” Chang said, referring to Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義).
Despite Chang’s criticism, the new chairman said he expected his newly sworn-in colleagues to work independently and think beyond party interests.
“I hope that you [the new members] understand that resisting political pressure is very important and urge all influential political entities to stay out of the CEC's operation,” Lai said.
He said that rooting out election irregularities would be a priority for the CEC under his leadership.