Amendments to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) requiring speakers and deputy speakers of local councils to be elected by open ballots cleared the legislative floor yesterday.
Existing local government law stipulates that speakers and deputy speakers of the councils of special municipalities, cities and counties, and the chairpersons and vice chairpersons of township councils, “shall be elected or recalled by secret ballot by the councilors of the special municipality, county/city councilors, and township/city representatives.”
The amendments changed the wording of the act from “secret” to “registered” votes.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
Before the amendments were voted on — following Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) objections to the the proposed amendments — Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers took turns to applaud the change and said the proposal would make local politics more transparent and hold politicians accountable to voters.
Open ballots in local councils are not unconstitutional — as the KMT has alleged — since what the Constitution guarantees is the secrecy of votes, Tainan DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said.
“The councilors are accountable to the electorate through their votes in the councils and they should be properly monitored. Some say that with registered votes, it would be even easier for those who bribe councilors to see if their money has been well spent, but with party politics now dominating local councils, unless an entire party caucus is bribed it is simply impossible for open votes to encourage corruption,” he said, adding that the past “flashing of votes,” which was done to show the representatives’ adherence to party discipline, was ruled not to be a crime by every level of court.
Tainan DPP legislators Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲), Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) all commented on the proposal after the vote — which easily passed with the DPP’s majority — and lauded it as a great improvement for Taiwan’s democracy and the beginning of the end for rampant bribery in local politics.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said the amendments would become a milestone in Taiwan’s democratic development.
“There is a consensus among those who study Taiwan’s politics that local politics has long been plagued by so-called ‘black money.’ During [one-party state rule under the KMT] Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) encouraged local factionism by granting special permission for certain people to run some types of business — such as natural gas, coaches and credit unions. Today our votes ended the KMT’s black money politics and changed the definition of Taiwan’s local politics,” she said.
The amendment is widely seen as being sparked by alleged corruption involving Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the KMT, who in April was sentenced to a four-year prison term by the Tainan District Court for vote-buying in the city council’s speakership election on Dec. 25, 2014, and was suspended from his position as speaker.
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