KMT paves way for Taichung City and County merger

POLITICAL ANGLE: The amendment to the Local Government Act would allow Taichung’s KMT mayor Jason Hu to run for re-election after this term

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Feb 10, 2009 - Page 3

A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus member yesterday said the caucus would prioritize a proposed amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) by April, a move seen by many as paving the way for the merger between Taichung City and Taichung County.

KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) told reporters that the caucus hoped the proposed amendment would clear the legislative floor by mid-April.

The proposal, approved by the Executive Yuan on Nov. 20, would allow cities and counties to merge into special municipalities.

The act only allows non-merged cities or counties to become a special municipality.

The Executive Yuan said the merger between Taichung City and Taichung County could be complete by Dec. 25 next year at the earliest.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) previously promised to complete the merger between Taichung City and Taichung County during his first term of office.

When asked for comment, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the legislature should also pass the draft administrative zoning act and amend the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) as reorganization of the nation’s administrative regions would affect the financing of local governments.

However, Lin said he was concerned that the progress of the proposed amendment to the Local Government Act might be delayed if the KMT adopted the DPP’s suggestion.

“We will negotiate with them [the DPP] and see how to best meet the needs of the nation,” Lin said.

Lin also dismissed media speculation that the caucus decided to prioritize the proposed amendment to the Local Government Act because the KMT was eyeing the upcoming city mayor and county commissioner elections.

The Ministry of the Interior said on Nov. 20 that Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), who is serving his second term, would be entitled to run for mayor of the new special municipality if Taichung City and Taichung County were successfully merged.

Although reorganizing the nation’s administrative regions would indeed affect the support strongholds of each political party, the caucus was only trying to better reorganize the nation’s land and did not have elections in mind, Lin said.

“We will also prioritize other bills. Bills such as the government’s special budget request of a maximum of NT$500 billion [US$14.8 billion] to boost the economy for the next four years are of equal importance,” he said.