Mon, Dec 26, 2011 - Page 3 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: INTERVIEW: Peng Ming-min talks about need for fair election

Peng Ming-min, chairman of the International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan, which was established with the aim of monitoring next month’s elections, in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Huang Tai-lin, on Friday, cited the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ as an example of why the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) should not abuse the power of government to influence the outcome of the election

Inevitably then, those concerned about the issue of a fair election are the opposition parties. In other words, it is perfectly understandable why so many members on the committee are opposition figures.

Although each committee member has his or her own political stance, I must stress that the committee, as a whole, is neutral and non-partisan, what it seeks is a fair election.

TT: Others have pointed out that the inclusion of foreigners on the committee is like telling tales out of school. What is your response to that?

Peng: The UN frequently sends groups to observe elections in a wide range of countries. Issues pertaining to democracy and human rights are a matter of international concern, which makes it perfectly natural for there to be foreign members of the committee who are interested in Taiwan.

TT: One of the committee’s objectives is listed as “opposing any interference from external forces.” Could you elaborate on what has given rise to such concerns?

Peng: If a Japanese official or a US official invited Taiwanese for meals and then asked them to support a particular candidate or a party [back in Taiwan], would that be acceptable? And yet China has been doing exactly that — which is very unusual in terms of democracy.

Certain officials in China have openly invited people eligible to vote in Taiwan for meals and encouraged them to support a particular candidate and party — such things should simply not be happening.

As an individual, if I say I want such and such a Japanese candidate to get elected, that’s okay because it falls under freedom of expression. However, if an official in Taiwan invites Japanese voters to a banquet and asks them to vote for a certain Japanese candidate when they return home, that would be unacceptable.

The US Department of State, in a response [on Thursday] to US Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter, replied that the US government would not endorse any particular candidate or party. It added in its response that “the US government does not believe any one party or leader on Taiwan has a monopoly on effective management of the US-Taiwan relationship.”

TT: Speaking of the US, the American Institute in Taiwan [AIT] on Thursday announced that Taiwan had been nominated for inclusion in the US’ Visa Waiver Program (VWP). As the KMT was quick to claim credit for the announcement, some at home and abroad have said the decision constituted an effort by the US government to interfere in Taiwan’s elections as a show of support for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election bid. What is your view on the timing of the AIT’s announcement?

Peng: No one but the US Department of State knows what its real intent is [in making the announcement at this time] was.

However, the VWP issue should not be touted as the accomplishment of a particular administration. Taiwan qualified for inclusion in the VWP because it has over time met the standards established by the US, for example by having less than a certain percentage of visas refused and a low rate of crimes committed by Taiwanese [while traveling in the US] etc. The announcement was not the result of the KMT government negotiating and fighting for it. Taiwan getting the VWP nomination should be seen as something achieved by Taiwanese collectively.

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