In a highly contentious ruling on Tuesday, the Taiwan High Court ordered the mayor of Jhunan Township (竹南), Miaoli County, to resign for allegedly violating the Local Government Act (地方制度法) by seeking a third term earlier this year.
Jhunan Township Mayor Kang Shih-ju (康世儒) ran as an independent in a by-election in January and won against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate, securing a third term.
In the ruling by the Greater Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court, the judge ruled that Kang had already been elected mayor twice, then he contested the by-election to win the post again, which violated the Local Government Act.
The January by-election result was therefore invalid, the judge said.
Reacting to the court decision, Kang said the Judicial Yuan was clashing with the Executive Yuan.
“This is a big international joke,” he said.
“Our township residents should also demand compensation from the state,” he said, adding that he would seek a constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices.
Liao Ying-li (廖英利), Kang’s opponent in the by-election, who filed the lawsuit seeking to dismiss the result, praised the judiciary, saying it had “restored justice.”
“This proves I was the only qualified candidate in the by-election, so the county election commission should now declare me the winner,” he said.
An official from Miaoli County’s Civil Affairs Department said a by-election must be held within three months, and in the meantime, when the order for Kang’s resignation becomes effective, the county government would appoint an interim mayor.
Kang won the elections to become the 14th and 15th mayor of Jhunan. During the 15th term, he ran in the 2009 legislative election and won a seat. Jhunan’s 16th mayor, Hsieh Ching-chuan (謝清泉), died in office from an illness, prompting the by-election, in which Kang defeated Liao by about 26,000 votes.
When Kang registered for the by-election, Liao questioned his eligibility.
The Miaoli County Election Commission convened to discuss the matter and brought their decision to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Taking note of a 2009 interpretation, the CEC ruled that Kang was eligible and approved his candidacy.
In the case’s first ruling, the court went against Kang and invalidated the election result, saying it violated Article 57 of the Local Government Act, which stipulates that winner of an election can serve two consecutive terms.
Kang appealed the first ruling, saying that between his second term as mayor and his current term was Hsieh Ching-chuan’s term, so it was not another consecutive term. He maintained that there was no violation of the Local Government Act, with the CEC and Executive Yuan also in agreement.
The judge in yesterday’s decision wrote that the law forbidding a third term in office was meant to prevent the monopolization and manipulation of political resources by long-serving elected officials, and the court must be stringent on this.
In the ruling, the judge said similar cases had occurred in Changhua, Penghu and Yilan counties, and candidates were allowed to contest the election, but decisions by the government’s administrative organs were not binding on judicial courts, so the court ruled to invalidate Kang’s by-election win.
Additional reporting by Ho Tsung-han