The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) should issue a public apology for its decision to revoke the results of the 2011 mayoral by-election for Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南) and provide compensation for expenses incurred due to the annulment, former township mayor Kang Shih-ju (康世儒) said on Sunday.
Kang’s victory in the by-elections was declared invalid by the Miaoli County District Court on June 14 last year for violating the Local Government Act (地方制度法). The by-election was prompted by the death of Jhunan mayor Hsieh Ching-chuan (謝清泉), who died while in office on Oct. 29, 2011.
Former Miaoli County councilor Liao Ing-li (廖英利) had complained that because Kang served as Jhunan mayor from March 1, 2002, was re-elected to a second term in 2006 and vacated the office before his term expired on March 31, 2009, after winning the by-election for the legislative seat representing the first constituency of Miaoli, he had violated the limitations on successive terms stated in the act.
Kang said that he had asked the Central Election Commission about his eligibility to run again prior to the by-election, and the commission had told him that the term limitations stated in the first paragraph of Article 57 of the act only apply to an individual who has successively completed two terms in office.
If there is a break between the terms in office, the limitations do not apply, the commission said.
However, the court said that the first paragraph of Article 57 was strictly defined by paragraph 4 of Article 82, which states that once an individual assumes office, that is considered to be two consecutive terms in office, even if that person does not complete the full length of the term.
The court thus ruled that Kang should have been barred from participating in any elections or by-elections for a position he had already occupied because the spirit of the law was to prevent “local elected officials from monopolizing political resources through long terms in office.”
Kang described the court’s action as being like a “hit-and-run,” saying that “the government’s laws are being changed before the ink on legislative documents is dry.”
The government did not even apologize after the court ruled that the by-election was void, which is akin to playing the people of Jhunan Township for fools and infringing on their rights to fair political participation, Kang said.
Kang added that he would ask attorney Chou Tsang-hsien (周滄賢) to be the convener of a legal group to sue the government for national compensation on behalf of Jhunan residents.
The suit is to seek a government apology for the residents and compensation for expenses incurred during the by-election.
Kan said that he was filing the lawsuit aim to “defend the rights of the townsfolk of Jhunan Township.”
Meanwhile, Chou said that his client had received a document from the ministry concerning his eligibility for election priro to the vote, which provided a legitimate basis for Kang’s expectation that he would be allowed to assume office if he won.
The ministry’s subsequent anulment of Kang’s victory constitutes a potential violation of that legitimate expectation, Chou said, adding that this was the first case in the nation’s history where a township has asked for national compensation.
It would be a significant legal challenge, but the lawyers will do their best to safeguard the rights of Jhunan Township residents, Chou said.