DPP requests regular election day

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s legislative corps is formally requesting that the Central Election Commission consider institutionalizing regular election dates, a move widely regarded as an attempt to change the controversial date of the end-of-year legislative elections. Controversy over the timing of the year-end legislative elections first erupted when the commission announced voting would be held December 11, breaking with a longstanding tradition of holding elections on the first Saturday in December. Opposition political forces accused the commission of violating principles of administrative neutrality, as the day of the election falls one day after the quarter-century anniversary of a notoriously bloody Kuomintang crackdown on a demonstration lead by the DPP’s early founders.

Opposition politicians accused the commission of political manipulation, arguing feelings against the KMT whipped up in voters at the protest’s anniversary will spill over to the following day when they go to the ballot boxes.

It was revealed yesterday the DPP’s legislative corps sent the commission a letter Thursday suggesting it comprehensively discuss election dates and set up a set of regulations in accordance with the constitution to prevent conflict in the future. The letter did not specifically refer to the timing of the end-of-year legislative elections.

Sources said the DPP and government have come to a consensus to respect the commission’s decision and not offer specific opinions on the timing of the legislative elections. But they will not oppose the commission delaying the voting day of its own accord. This is in contrast to the opposition’s push to stick to tradition and make the elections a week earlier, on the first Saturday of December.

DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui yesterday was openly pushing for the day of the legislative elections to be held on New Year’s Day in 2005. Lin denied the DPP’s letter was in response to opposition charges of political manipulation within the commission. But he said there was definitely a need to institutionalize election dates to prevent conflict and suspicion in the future. He said he made a suggestion to the DPP’s legislative corps on Tuesday to delay the elections until January 1 next year as it will shorten the period between the day legislators are elected and the day of their inauguration.

However the DPP’s legislative corps did not include his suggestion in the letter, out of fear it would appear that they were trying to interfere with the commission’s neutrality if their demands were too specific.

Sources said Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan said in a commission meeting yesterday that the Cabinet felt it was best to stick to the appointed day. However, she said, the Cabinet would not oppose the commission changing the day on the grounds that the first choice was unduly influencing the elections, provided the change of timing was legal. The opposition gave mixed reactions to the DPP’s letter. Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung, convener of the legislative corps of the minority populist People First Party, said he welcomed the move. Liu said that regular election dates needed to be institutionalized. Before this, the commission should stick to political convention when setting election dates and not be influenced by politics. But KMT whip legislator Huang Teh-fu was bitter. Huang said opposition politicians had petitioned the commission three times asking the election to be moved back a week earlier without any response. He then said they asked the commission to move it forward to New Year’s Day and this request also fell on deaf ears. If the commission acted on the DPP’s letter, he said, it revealed that it was not a neutral organization.