Recall vote against lawmaker Chen Po-wei postponed

07/16/2021 09:42 PM
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Legislator Chen Po-wei. CNA file photo
Legislator Chen Po-wei. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 16 (CNA) The recall vote against Taichung lawmaker Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) will be pushed back from August to October, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced Friday after a meeting, citing the government's COVID-19 restrictions.

The vote to decide whether the only legislator belonging to the pro-independence Taiwan Statebuilding Party will be removed from office will now be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 23 in Chen's constituency in Taichung, according to the CEC.

The recall vote, originally scheduled for Aug. 28, was pushed back by nearly two months because preparations have been "greatly disrupted and delayed" due to the government's restrictions under the current Level 3 COVID-19 alert, which will remain in place until at least July 26, the CEC said in a press statement.

The establishment of polling stations in schools and other venues, and the recruitment and training of staff have been affected by school closures and a ban on indoor gatherings of more than four people, the agency noted.

The CEC also ruled out the possibility of holding the recall vote and the national referendum, which was postponed until Dec. 18, on the same date.

Holding the election and referendum simultaneously on Dec. 18 would "cause the referendum to lose focus," the agency maintained, adding that separating the two votes would ensure "the results are consistent with public opinion."

Postponing the recall vote later than Oct. 23 could risk undermining voters' rights, the CEC added.

However, the CEC's decision to hold the recall vote and referendum, both of which were initially scheduled for Aug. 28, on different dates, has been slammed by the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), which on Friday called the reasons provided by the agency "nonsensical."

In a statement, the party also accused the CEC of attempting to discourage people from voting in the recall by holding it separately from the referendum, which is national in scale and therefore likely to attract a higher turnout.

In addition, a group that has been campaigning for Chen to be recalled also questioned the CEC's decision, arguing that holding the two events separately will cost taxpayers more money.

Meanwhile, Chen, speaking at a Facebook live-streaming session on Friday, said he did not have a problem with the rescheduling of the recall vote and encouraged people to cast their ballots on polling day.

The 35-year-old was elected as a lawmaker in 2020 for the first time after a narrow upset against then-incumbent KMT lawmaker Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆), the scion of a local political dynasty.

Yang Wen-yuan (楊文元), who initiated the recall campaign, said Chen had been neglecting his constituency, behaving outrageously in the Legislature and on social media, and supporting the government's decision to lift a ban on pork imports containing the livestock drug ractopamine.

With the recall vote now set for a later date, the CEC is expected to announce the number of people eligible to vote by Oct. 19.

In the previous local elections, there were 291,122 eligible voters in Chen's constituency.

(By Lai Yu-chen, Liu Kuan-ting, Matthew Mazzetta and Teng Pei-ju)

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