MOFA denies canceling international observer trips

By Joseph Yeh,The China Post

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday denied that the ministry had canceled planned visits of international observers who had applied to come to Taiwan to monitor the presidential and legislative elections that will take place tomorrow. “The ministry has never rejected international election observers but instead we always welcome them and is willing to provide assistance to facilitate their trips,” said MOFA spokesman James Chang (章計平) yesterday during a regular news briefing. However, Chang admitted that the ministry could not invite extensive numbers of people from the international community this year to observe the upcoming elections due to budget limitations. The ministry has allocated most of its budget to hold the presidential inauguration ceremony to be held on May 20 and National Day celebrations set to take place in October, Chang said. Chang said the MOFA has informed those international groups that are showing interest in observing the January elections that they will need to fund their trip to Taiwan because of budget concerns.

The Foreign Ministry will offer administrative assistance only, he added.

Chang’s comment came after a Chinese-language newspaper yesterday quoted a foreign source as accusing the MOFA of calling off scheduled invitations to election observers overseas. The Liberty Times report quoted an unidentified Australian scholar as saying that he or she had obtained an invitation from the MOFA last year to come to Taiwan to observe the elections.

But the scholar in question later was informed by the MOFA that it could no longer support the scheduled trip because of “insufficient manpower,” a last minute alteration that made the scholar feel not respected, the report said. Meanwhile, the MOFA yesterday announced that Taiwan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has invited officials from four member states of the Association of Asian Election Authorities (AAEA) and representatives from Thailand and Mexico, to the country to observe the Jan. 14 elections. Taiwan is a funding member of the AAEA.