Sun, May 08, 2011 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Peng advises vigilance ahead of elections

On April 19, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced the merger of the presidential and legislative elections, which will likely be held on Jan. 14 next year. Former presidential adviser Peng Ming-min talked to Tzou Jiing-wen, a staff reporter for the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister paper of the ‘Taipei Times’), saying that the commission has violated the principle of fairness by changing the rules when the game has already begun. Saying the merged polls could make vote-buying even easier, Peng called for strict public scrutiny during election season

Former presidential adviser Peng Ming-min, right, talks to Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen on Friday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT):What do you think of the CEC’s decision to merge the two elections?

Peng Ming-min (彭明敏): This decision clearly indicates that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has too much to lose and that it is willing to do anything to win. Theoretically speaking, frequent elections are not good for the public and combining elections to save money isn’t wrong, per se. However, consideration must be given to the fact that campaigning has already begun, and the candidates are already preparing for the elections. To suddenly change the rules when the game has already begun goes against the principle of fairness, and that just isn’t right.

Regulations governing the presidential election and the legislative elections are different. Besides, voters who are participating in the two elections are not necessarily the same. Changing the timing of the vote will have an impact on the rights of tens of thousands of first-time voters. Some people have suggested implementing simultaneous elections in the next round of elections [instead of hastily implementing it next year], but the KMT is obviously determined to do whatever it feels would be to its advantage. Whether it will be really advantageous [for the KMT], I don’t know.

With the presidential election being moved forward to January, should there be a change in the party in power, there would be a four-month window [before the presidential inauguration on May 20], which has never happened before in any country.

How will the government operate during this vacuum? It is a problematic issue and in light of the KMT’s past actions, it is not very reassuring. To allow such a long window is unreasonable and yet the KMT doesn’t seem to think much [of this problem]. It’s as if it is sure that victory is at hand and has not considered the possibility that it might lose the election.

There are four possible outcomes to combining the presidential and legislative elections. First, the KMT wins the presidential election and retains its majority in the Legislative Yuan. The three other possibilities are the KMT loses the presidential election [but retains its legislative majority], loses its legislative majority [but retains the presidency], or loses both to the DPP. Can this happen? The KMT doesn’t want to, nor dare, face the issue heads-on.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he respects the professionalism of the CEC. This is a classic Ma response, and that’s what he has always done.

The CEC’s decision is obviously in line with the KMT’s wishes, with Ma pulling the strings in the background; if anything happens and controversy erupts, Ma can simply deny [any link].

Another thing that has disappointed me is the CEC itself. Theoretically, it is independent, but now it has become the puppet of the KMT, and even justified its decision with public surveys, claiming that a majority of the public favors combining the elections. How reliable is this survey? I don’t know. The CEC also says a month, two, or four months do not make a difference. It’s just equivocating.

Moreover, in response to public doubts, the Presidential Office spokesman said these issues were all just hypothetical scenarios. But all laws are based on suppositions. Suppose you killed a man, how would you be punished? Suppose you lied, how are you to be punished then? How can [the KMT government] avoid this issue by saying they are merely suppositions?

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