Mayor cleared of vote-buying

LACK OF EVIDENCE::After a year-long legal battle that has seen Tainan City Council at a standstill, both the mayor and speaker have had vote-buying charges dropped

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Nov 07, 2015 - Page 3

Tainan prosecutors yesterday dropped charges of vote-buying against Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教), former council speaker Lai Mei-hui (賴美惠) and a number of city councilors.

The Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office said that after completing its investigation into allegations of vote-buying relating to the election of the city council speaker and deputy speaker in December last year, it decided not to prosecute them due to insufficient evidence.

The decision puts an end to the litigious wrangling and political sparring that have paralyzed the Tainan City Council for most of the year.

Prosecutors said that investigators had questioned the defendants, examined their bank accounts and financial transactions, and talked to witnesses, but found no evidence that the officials had contravened the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法).

Lee, of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was accused of offering several city councilors between NT$300,000 and NT$10 million (US$9,165 and US$305,530) — which was allegedly handled through intermediaries — to help him secure the speakership.

Saying they have evidence and witness testimonies that Lee and other KMT officials offered bribes in exchange for votes, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) councilors filed a complaint with public prosecutors.

KMT councilors in turn accused the mayor, a DPP member, of attempting to buy votes in a failed bid to help Lai Mei-hui secure the speakership for a second term.

Lee won the speakership by three votes, 29 to 26, on Dec. 25 last year.

Prosecutors said that they have also dropped charges of vote-buying against Lee and independent Tainan City Councilor Yeh Chih-cheng (葉枝成) during the run-up to the local elections for councilors on Nov. 29 last year.

Following the prosecutors’ announcement, William Lai said: “Since the beginning, I have said a person of integrity can stand up to the test. These were groundless accusations against me. Now I hope the court can bring to justice those who were really engaged in vote-buying and prosecute them for the good of society.”

Lee called a press briefing and said that he had always conducted himself in a fair and professional manner in presiding over the city council to safeguard the welfare of Tainan residents.

While the speaker expressed hope that he could put all litigation behind him, he is not yet out of the woods. He is still facing three legal cases, including two civil lawsuits filed by prosecutors and a DPP councilor, seeking to nullify the results of his election as a city councilor due to alleged vote-buying.

If found guilty, it would also invalidate Lee’s eligibility as speaker.