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Tainan city council speaker would 'die to prove innocence'

Tainan city council speaker would 'die to prove innocence'

Taipei, Jan. 7 (CNA) Tainan City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao continued to maintain his innocence in allegations he bought his election to the city council and the speakership, going so far Wednesday as to imply he would commit suicide if found guilty. "If (Mayor) Lai Ching-te really has so much influence with judicial authorities that he can invalidate my electoral victory, I'll die to prove my innocence," he told reporters.
Lee, a central standing committee member of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), made the remarks on the sidelines of a committee meeting in Taipei. Tainan Mayor Lai, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has vowed not to enter the city council until the allegations against the speaker are cleared or his election is invalidated. Lee told the press that he has encountered intense pressure amid what he called a smear campaign following his Dec. 25 election to head the city council, which he won despite the KMT holding a small minority of seats. "I have put up with it all for the sake of the citizens' welfare and maintaining the harmony between the city government and council," Lee said. The speaker accused the mayor of passing judgment before judicial authorities have reviewed the facts.
As for his election to the city council on Nov. 29, which is under scrutiny by prosecutors, Lee argued he was elected city councilor because his constituency is one of the few strongholds of the KMT in the overwhelmingly DPP-leaning southern city of 1.88 million people. "I don't need to buy votes, and I would never buy votes," Lee contended. The December vote among councilors that elected him to the speakership was, however, a surprise even for him. "I have no idea why I garnered so many votes," he said candidly. His election as speaker came as a surprise as the DPP held 29 seats (at that time) in the 57-member city council compared with the KMT's 16 seats. There are 11 seats held by non-partisan members and one seat held by a councilor in the Taiwan Solidarity Union, an ally of the DPP. Despite the makeup of the council, Lee ended up winning 29 votes for the speakership against a DPP candidate's 26 votes. Two votes were invalid. Since the vote, the DPP has moved to revoke party membership for five of the 29 councilors for failing to toe the party line by voting for Lee. The Tainan District Prosecutors Office filed a petition with the court on Dec. 31 to invalidate Lee's election as a city councilor, and opened an investigation.
Amid widespread speculation that money was exchanged to secure their votes, Mayor Lai reiterated Wednesday he would not set foot in the council building before investigators get to the bottom of the case, as he cannot "overlook a speakership that has been produced through an illegal and abnormal process." He said he would submit himself to the evaluation of the people, and not the city council, until the case against Lee is looked into. "This is to safeguard the dignity of residents and create a new political culture for Tainan," he said. (By Claudia Liu, Chang Jung-hsiang and Lilian Wu)


Updated : 2021-09-21 02:05 GMT+08:00