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Jason Hu questions CEC over firing election chief

TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung, said yesterday he could not accept his deputy Hsiao Chia-chi being fired as acting chairman of the election committee of the central Taiwan city.

Hsiao, deputy mayor, received at 1:29 a.m. Premier Chang Chun-hsiung's order to relieve him of the job he was doing for Jason Hu. The premier dismissed Hsiao at the recommendation of the Central Election Commission.

"I can't accept the decision," Hu said, "for I strongly suspect that the CEC is attempting to expand its jurisdiction."

Hu had given up his chairmanship of the Taichung election committee in favor of his deputy mayor long before the CEC decided to enforce what it calls a one-stop distribution of ballots for the legislative elections and two referendums.

Under that formula, voters are required to receive all four votes at the same time. Eighteen local election committees under Kuomintang control did not accept the CEC order and instead started making arrangements for issuing ballots at two stops, two at one and the other two at the other.

To tame the defiant committees, the CEC so amended an executive order to empower the premier to fire their chairmen. Hsiao was the third to be dismissed.

"The CEC was encroaching on my authority to appoint my election committee chairman to take my place on the committee," said the Taichung mayor, who was foreign minister from 1997 to 1998.

Founded under the Executive Yuan in 1982, the CEC is in charge of holding and supervising elections, local as well as national, and referendums. It did not have power to appoint or fire local election commissioners and their chairmen before the amendment, whose legality, however, is questioned.

"Has that executive decree been published?" Hu asked. "Can it be retroactive?" The executive decree was amended last week, and the dismissal of disobedient chairman had begun before the CEC voted for the amendment.

He wondered what the purpose of the CEC flagrant action is. "I am afraid," he added, "they are trying to influence the elections."

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