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May 12, 2007

New Fisher/Farmer Association amendments

The Taipei Times was the only one to report on this today among the English papers. Apparently there is a law that was even more important than the CEC bill or the annual budget, so the KMT made it a top priority:

The pan-blue camp proposed amendments to the Farmers' Association Law (農會法) and Fishers' Association Law (漁會法), which both cleared the legislature yesterday.

The revised amendments canceled the three-term limits for secretary-generals with the associations and lowered requirements for them to renew their employment.

They also stipulated that association staff standing trial would not be relieved of their posts until a final verdict was delivered in their cases.

In other words, the amendments had a single purpose: to curry favor with the current secretary-generals, who obviously pull a lot of weight among the Farmers' Associations and Fishers' Associations in each county. The KMT's people hold 70% of these offices nation-wide!

The goal is to help those secretary-generals to wield significant long-term power, which makes them good friends and easier to buy off, and to help protect them from prosecution in the cases where they are involved in shady deals. And they often are: "In the 2001 farmers' association election, 555 cases of vote-buying, violence, and violation of the election laws, involving 951 people, were sent to the court, an increase of 157 cases (42 people) compared with the 1997 election."

The blues also managed to push through this:

Meanwhile, the pan-blue camp yesterday also triumphed in a vote on amending the Audit Law (審計法) which is aimed at clearing embezzlement allegations against KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), to a second reading.

Ma was indicted on corruption charges after he allegedly wired half of his monthly special allowance fund directly into a personal account during his term as Taipei mayor from 1998 to last year.

The amendment says that all special allowances claimed by officials by the end of last year should be seen as "substantial subsidies" so decriminalizing the case.

Also yesterday, an amendment to the President and Vice President Election and Recall Law (總統副總統選舉罷免法), calling for the establishment of an absentee voting system and putting a ban on holding national elections and referendums on the same day was sent to second reading.

While amending the audit law probably won't be able to affect the course of Ma's case (after all, I don't think you can really do this stuff ex post facto), the progress of the recall law amendment is a demonstration their unadulterated of the party assets referendum being held on the same day as the presidential election because it might focus attention on the KMT's theft of massive amounts of private and public property. Holding referendums and elections together is, after all, quite normal, as well as cost-saving. It simply doesn't benefit the KMT in this case, and they fear referendums in general anyway.

I wouldn't say the KMT is getting desperate; I think they're playing every card they have to try and win in '08, though just how successful the moves will be remains to be seen.

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