The Legislative Yuan yesterday voted to abolish the direct election of leaders of local irrigation associations, which are major organizations for farmers.
The positions are to be filled by appointment, a move blasted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) as designed to incur political gains for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Under the new amendment to the Organic Regulations for Irrigation and Water Conservancy Associations (農田水利會組織通則), the executives of 15 irrigation associations, whose four-year terms are scheduled to end on April 30, are to continue for another two years until Sept. 30, 2020.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
When their terms expire, the Council of Agriculture are to fill the positions by appointment, rather than by elections as has been the case since 2002.
The council is taking control of the associations, which are responsible for irrigation operations and maintenance, to improve efficiency in the use of agricultural water and to provide better services for farmers, it said.
However, the DPP government has been criticized for returning the associations to government control for its own benifit.
Several thousand people mobilized by KMT chapters nationwide protested outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday holding placards saying that the “centralized DPP government” intends to use the positions to lure support from KMT-affiliated local factions and that the change is “a step backward in democracy.”
Of the nation’s 17 irrigation associations, only four are led by people affiliated with the DPP — Yilan, Taoyuan, Kaohsiung and Pingtung — a Taichung Irrigation Association employee surnamed Chen (陳) said.
Since 2002, under the previous DPP administration, farmers have had the power to elect irrigation association leaders, Chen said.
“The DPP cannot just take back the power because it lost to the KMT in association elections,” he added.
DPP Legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said that the KMT in 2000 pushed for the direct election system after the DPP came to power.
In the late 1990s a cross-party consensus was reached that the positions filled by a selection committee vote should be changed to appointed positions.
However, in 2000 the KMT backtracked so as not to give the DPP the power of appointment, Ker said.
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