All ballots are clean and legal, says President Chen

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian vowed yesterday that all ballots cast in a recent confirmation vote were clean and legal, despite prosecutors deciding to expand an investigation into alleged vote-buying. Chang Po-ya, former interior minister, failed last Friday to win the approval of the Legislative Yuan for the position of vice president of the Examination Yuan, Taiwan’s government branch in charge of holding examinations to recruit public servants.

There were reports that a “group” of lawmakers had attempted to sell their ballots at a price of NT$2 million to NT$30 million each and that the total amount of money involved was NT$150 million. Chang lost the confirmation bid after she allegedly refused to go for the deal. Separate reports said that the market price for each ballot supporting the nominees for positions in the Control Yuan and Examination Yuan was NT$5 million. The price for a ballot backing a nominee for the position of president of the Examination Yuan was NT$10 million. The reports prompted all major political parties to clarify that their lawmakers had not been involved in any of the vote-selling. They asked Chang to disclose the names of those who sought to sell their ballots. After meeting with President Chen yesterday, Chang said that lawmakers of ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were not involved in peddling the ballots.

But she said there were people who witnessed that some lawmakers did attempt to demand money in exchange for their support of her confirmation. In a statement issued by the Presidential Office, President Chen dismissed opposition lawmakers’ allegations that bribes were offered to get legislators to approve his nominees for several key government posts.

“I am pleased to note that every ballot cast during this vote was clean,” Chen said in the statement. “This I can solemnly pledge to the public.”

Chen said that the reports of vote-buying and vote-selling have inflicted drastic damage. He hopes the rumors will stop spreading. He expressed regret that four of the seven outstanding female nominees he recommended did not win enough ballots for various posts, including vice president of the Examination Yuan, grand justice and two members of the Control Yuan. The statement was issued after President Chen met with several of his nominees who failed to win legislative confirmations. Although Chen said the accusations concerning alleged bribery were unfounded, the opposition parties demanded that the government launch an investigation into the confirmation vote last week.

Legislator Kuan Wo-nuan of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said the dangling of checks and coercing had prompted several KMT lawmakers to violate the party’s policy and vote for the nominees. Kuan said “there must be some reason” for these legislators to show up at the critical moment to cast their ballots when they do not regularly attend routine legislative meetings.

He said Chang’s remarks confirmed that there actually were some lawmakers involved in bribery. He suggested that Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan immediately start a thorough probe, and if it is proven that some lawmakers were bribed, there should be a re-election for the top positions in the Examination Yuan. Lawmaker Chin Hui-chu of the opposition People First Party told reporters that at least three PFP lawmakers were approached and offered bribes to vote for former DPP chairman and lawmaker Yao Chia-wen, a nominee for the presidency of the Examination Yuan. Yao received 113 ballots, the exact number of votes needed to win confirmation.

Chin declined to identify the PFP lawmakers who were approached.

Quoting informed sources, the United Evening News reported that seven lawmakers of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) did not cast their votes for Chang. TSU Legislator Cheng Cheng-lung said yesterday that he believes all 13 TSU members voted for Chang. He said the TSU will expel any lawmakers proven to have been involved in the bribery. He urged Chang to name the “group of lawmakers” seeking to sell their ballots. Otherwise, he said, Chang’s allegations can only create more political chaos in Taiwan. After compiling newspaper clippings and news reports about the cajoling, the physical dragging of some lawmakers into the meeting rooms and the blocking of some from casting their ballots, Lu Ren-fa, chief of the State Public Prosecutor General’s Office at the Supreme Court, instructed the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office to gain an understanding of the case as a whole. An official of the prosecutors’ office said the prosecutor assigned to investigate the case will determine if there is a need to ask former Interior Minister Chang to help with the investigation as a witness.