The Cabinet yesterday issued an ultimatum to local election commission heads, stressing that those who failed to implement the one-step voting format during the Jan. 12 legislative election would be dismissed, replaced, brought to justice and disciplined.
The Central Election Commission (CEC), the nation's highest electoral rulemaking body, was instructed to issue orders to local election commissions yesterday and today "reiterating that the one-step voting format is the sole format to be used," Cabinet Secretary-General Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) said at a press conference following a meeting convened by Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁).
The move was intended to be seen as an ultimatum after the CEC failed to resolve the long-standing dispute.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have locked horns over the voting system for more than a month.
The DPP favors the CEC's decision, made on Nov. 16, to adopt a one-step voting system, in which voters receive the ballots for the legislative elections and the two referendums at two separate desks before casting them into four separate boxes.
The KMT prefers a two-step voting format in which voters would receive the legislative ballots and cast them first, before receiving the ballots for the two referendums.
Eighteen local authorities governed by KMT have said they would implement a two-step voting system.
"No matter what [heads of local election commissions] have said previously regarding favoring a two-step voting format, they won't be punished for that, so long as from now on they prepare for the election in compliance with the one-step voting format," Chen said.
Preparations for the election include the publications of bulletins and brochures, as well as finalizing the desk arrangement for distributing ballots and the voting boxes in polling stations.
Heads of local election commissions that employ a two-step voting procedure would be punished in accordance with the Criminal Act (刑法), the Referendum Law (公民投票法), the Civil Servant Services Act (公務員服務法), the Civil Service Performance Evaluation Act (公務人員考績法) and the Law on Discipline of Public Functionaries (公務員懲戒法), Chen said.
Upon learning of the possibility that the CEC could replace the heads of the local election commissions in pan-blue-governed cities and counties, KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) yesterday threatened to sue the CEC for malfeasance.
Tseng questioned the CEC's authority to replace the directors of local election commissions.
Tseng said that it was the CEC that had violated the law as it did not want to obey a binding resolution reached by the legislature last week to adopt a two-step voting system and issue legislative and referendum ballots separately in the elections next month.
"The caucus fully supports and insists on adopting the two-step voting procedure," Tseng told a press conference.
"Once again, we would like to remind the CEC that the caucus will file a malfeasance lawsuit against it should it abuse its authority by recalling [directors] of local election commissions," he said.
Meanwhile, at a separate setting, the KMT's presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (
"All government policies should follow the law. If not, the policies do not carry any legal weight and the people concerned in the controversy can choose not to comply with the policies," he said when approached for comment yesterday.
"[The Cabinet's] order or measure [to deal with the controversy] contradicts the Constitution and law. Under this circumstance, it is very difficult for people to obey the order," he said.
He said that public officials in the 18 cities and counties cannot be charged by the Cabinet with violation of the Civil Code (民法) or Criminal Code for adopting a two-step system because "they are complying with the law."
Ma said the Cabinet should resolve the voting procedure controversy through the legislature as the Constitution and the Local Government Act (
"This is the solution, but the government doesn't want to adopt it," he said.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (
City government spokesman Yang Hsiao-tung (
The CEC is scheduled to hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss possible amendments to the regulations governing local commissions and to authorize the Premier to discharge local officials who violate the commission's decisions or behave in such way as to compromise the commission's reputation, CEC Chairman Chang Cheng-hsiung ( 張政雄) said yesterday.
The CEC would also hold a meeting to decide clear parameters for when it would be appropriate for the government to declare "force majeure" and halt the upcoming election, he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU
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