Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said yesterday that the chiefs of districts in the newly designated special municipalities would not be elected for at least the next four years.
The Executive Yuan approved a plan last June to merge Taichung City and Taichung County, Tainan City and Tainan County, and Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County into special municipalities, as well as upgrade Taipei County into a special municipality. The new municipalities will be formed on Dec. 25 this year and their mayors will be elected along with the mayor of Taipei City.
In line with the restructuring, the 108 townships, villages and cities that exist in the affected counties and cities will be reorganized into districts.
Elections for the chiefs and representatives of these townships, villages and cities will be abolished, with future district chiefs to be appointed by mayors of the special municipalities, as is now the case in the two existing special municipalities of Taipei and Kaohsiung.
“An amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) to that effect has already been approved by the Executive Yuan and submitted to the Legislative Yuan,” said Chien, whose ministry is in charge of the autonomous local governments.
Under the amendment, existing townships in the newly designated special municipalities would become districts headed by appointed chiefs.
To take advantage of the experience of elected township chiefs, however, the amendment would allow them to be appointed by elected mayors of the municipalities as district chiefs, the vice minister said.
The amendment would also oblige mayors to name the incumbent councilors of these townships as advisers to the district chief to give them roles in helping with the governing of the districts, Chien said.
“We respect the views of some people that there should be elected district chiefs and councilors, but we stand by the amendment crafted by the Executive Yuan,” Chien said.
Citing Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) telling the Ministry of the Interior last year that district chiefs should not be elected for the time being, Chien said the appointed chiefs of districts would serve for at least one four-year term until 2014.
The changes have triggered extensive concerns among incumbents.
Township chiefs and councilors of the four counties involved in the administrative realignment gathered at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Tuesday to appeal for help in amending the Local Government Act to allow one more round of elections this year to give them a chance to serve another four-year term.
The politicians, many of whom are members or allies of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), have threatened to mobilize against the party’s candidates in the year-end special municipalities elections if their appeal is ignored, but KMT legislators did not seem sympathetic to their appeal.
“Reforms always come at a price,” KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said.
Wu said he saw little chance for compromise given that Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) had rejected calls to amend the law. The legislator also expressed regret that the local governments did not communicate properly with local politicians before filing their applications for an upgrade.
Meanwhile, KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said he believed that comprehensive, not partisan, considerations should guide the reforms.
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