The Appendectomy Project yesterday slammed the Central Election Commission (CEC) for “flip-flopping” on its publicization of recall campaigns, saying it has refused to put fines on hold even as it recommended the passage of legislative amendments.
Members of the group shouted defiant slogans at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan, promising to seek a court ruling on the constitutionality of a Civil Servants Election And Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) provision forbidding the publicization of recall campaigns.
The Taipei Election Commission on Tuesday fined the group NT$600,000 after the CEC rejected its recommendation to seek a court ruling on the provisions’ constitutionality.
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
The fine was issued for publicization activities during the recall campaign against former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) last year.
Appendectomy Project spokesman Lin Zu-yi (林祖儀) blasted the CEC for failing to take a clear position on the issue.
“If the CEC was not willing to seek a court ruling in December last year, why did it tell legislators in a report today that it thinks provisions [forbidding the publicization of recall campaigns] should be amended? What in the world does it really think?” Lin said.
He pledged to appeal the fine with the goal of winning a ruling on constitutionality, while calling on the Legislative Yuan to swiftly pass amendments to the act.
“Publicizing recall campaigns is an aspect of freedom of speech and to forbid it is to hinder the public’s participation in governance,” he said. “If the government fines us NT$ 600,000 for publicization, this would become yet another recall barrier because people would be afraid that they would be hunted down by government agencies if they exercise their right to recall.”
He said the group’s members would immediately appeal for “administrative relief” after paying the fine, and would take the matter to court for a constitutional ruling if the appeal is lost.
He added that group’s members were also considering lobbying for 25 percent of national legislators to sign a petition calling for a constitutional ruling to send the matter directly to the Council of Grand Justices.
New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) — who was previously deeply involved in the Appendectomy Project’s campaign — slammed the Taipei Election Commission for issuing the fine, calling the related legal provisions “ridiculous.”
The New Taipei City Election Commission had previously refused to issue fines for publicization activities connected with an earlier Constitution 133 Alliance campaign against former KMT legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), he said.
Meanwhile, Taipei Deputy Mayor Teng Chia-chi (鄧家基), who also serves as Taipei Election Commission chairman, disavowed any Taipei City Government involvement in the fine, saying that the commission operates independently of the city.
Although past practices put the city in charge of appointing the commission’s chairman to facilitate its operations, it had nothing to do with the penalty, he said.
“As the commission’s decisionmaking process operates under a collegial system, the city government is not in a position to intervene or speak on the matter,” he said.
However, Teng said that the city government pays a great deal of attention to the issue.
“I believe that the public’s freedom of speech should be fully respected in a democracy,” he said.
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