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Clashes erupt in Legislature ahead of review of amendments to recall law

07/08/2024 12:47 PM
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Ruling and opposition lawmakers brawl over proposed amendments to the Public Officials Election and Recall Act at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Monday. CNA photo July 8, 2024
Ruling and opposition lawmakers brawl over proposed amendments to the Public Officials Election and Recall Act at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Monday. CNA photo July 8, 2024

Taipei, July 8 (CNA) Physical fights erupted on Monday morning in Taiwan's Legislature, the Legislative Yuan, among lawmakers who support and those who oppose proposed amendments to the Public Officials Election and Recall Act, which are aimed at tightening the requirements for recalling an elected official.

Before the meeting for the law revision review started, lawmakers mobilized by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which opposed the law amendments proposed by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), occupied the podium of the chairperson of the meeting in a bid to boycott the review.

The occupation of the podium by DPP lawmakers sparked dismay from their KMT counterparts, leading to fights between lawmakers from the two parties, with DPP Legislator Lin Chu-yin (林楚茵) screaming that her chin was bleeding after she said she was slapped in the face by KMT lawmaker Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇).

Lin claimed Wang slapped her on the face several times and even knocked off her earrings. She said she will go to a hospital to have her injuries examined and that this will allow her to have evidence to sue Wang.

Wang, on the other hand, said DPP Legislator Lai Hui-yuan (賴惠員) was grabbing KMT lawmaker Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) by the neck before she joined Hsu.

Lawmakers argue over proposed bill amendments at the Legislature on Monday. CNA photo July 8, 2024
Lawmakers argue over proposed bill amendments at the Legislature on Monday. CNA photo July 8, 2024

Speaking with reporters after the scuffle, Wang said Lin grabbed her, hit her and kicked her like a crazy woman when she came to help Hsu. In addition to Lin, Wang said DPP lawmaker Huang Jie (黃捷) also kicked her, adding that Huang's move was a "villainous act."

"Shame on the DPP," Wang said. "The DPP was the evildoer but complained first."

KMT caucus secretary-general Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) said his party has obtained the surveillance footage about the fight which showed Huang had damaged the door lock of the meeting room at 4 a.m. and Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱), another DPP lawmaker, did the same to enter the meeting room at around 5 a.m. to occupy the podium.

Hung said the DPP became a trouble maker, not only vandalizing the public facility but also blocking the review meeting, adding that the KMT will publicize the surveillance images.

Huang, meanwhile, accused the KMT caucus of attempting to block lawmakers and other Legislature personnel from entering the meeting room Monday morning.

Huang said the KMT caucus even tried to change the meeting venue for the Monday law review.

In terms of the content of the amendments, the KMT has proposed raising the threshold for recalling an elected official in the election and recall act, saying the current threshold is low and makes it easy to recall an elected official.

Under the current requirements, for a recall vote to succeed, the number of votes cast in favor of the recall only needs to exceed those cast against it by a simple majority and be equal to at least one-quarter of all eligible voters in the district.

DPP lawmakers hold placards in protest at the Legislature. CNA photo July 8, 2024
DPP lawmakers hold placards in protest at the Legislature. CNA photo July 8, 2024

The KMT's proposed revision stipulates that the number of votes cast to support the recall should exceed the number of the votes the elected official garnered in the election where the official was elected. It also would require that votes in favor of recalling an official exceed those cast against it and be equal to at least to 25 percent of all eligible voters.

Among other amendments to the election and recall act, the article initiated by both DPP and KMT lawmakers also allowed for absentee voting for Indigenous voters, which aims to raise the willingness of these voters, who are away from their tribes in a remote area, to cast their ballots.

On July 4, a meeting was also scheduled to review the KMT-proposed amendments, but DPP lawmakers occupied the podium of the chair to prevent the KMT-aligned independent Kao Chin Su-mei (高金素梅) from presiding over the meeting.

Kao Chin blasted the DPP lawmakers for blocking the review meeting and decided to postpone the review till Monday, when she would serve as the chair.

The amendments to the recall act are being proposed following a string of recall elections in Taiwan in the past few years, with some resulting in elected officials, including the current legislative speaker Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the KMT, being recalled.

Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu (front, left) bows during a news conference in Kaohsiung on June 6, 2020, after being voted out of office as Kaohsiung mayor. CNA file photo
Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu (front, left) bows during a news conference in Kaohsiung on June 6, 2020, after being voted out of office as Kaohsiung mayor. CNA file photo

In June 2020, Han was recalled from his Kaohsiung City mayorship by voters angry at him running for president that year, less than a year after he was elected mayor. Han became the most prominent official to be successfully recalled in recent years in Taiwan. He became speaker of the Legislative Yuan after the KMT won 52 out of the 113 seats in the legislative vote in January 2024.

Among other recalled politicians, Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party was also recalled as a legislator in October 2021. And prior to that, a recall election removed Taoyuan City Councilor Wang Hao-yu (王浩宇) of the DPP from office in January 2021.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) has said the revisions proposed by the KMT are expected to hinder voters' rights to recall an elected official, calling the amendments a "caged" election and recall act.

For his part, Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has said he opposed the higher recall requirements, but favored tightening the rules to collect signatures to allow a recall vote to proceed.

(By Chen Chun-hua and Frances Huang)

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Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party appears emotional after admitting defeat in the recall vote held in Taichung on Oct. 23, 2021. CNA file photo
Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) of the Taiwan Statebuilding Party appears emotional after admitting defeat in the recall vote held in Taichung on Oct. 23, 2021. CNA file photo
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