Village chief becomes Taiwan’s first public official to be unseated by new recall measure

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A village chief in southern Taiwan became the first elected public official to be unseated on Saturday under a new amendment to the Public Officials E...

A village chief in southern Taiwan became the first elected public official to be unseated on Saturday under a new amendment to the Public Officials E... (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—A village chief in southern Taiwan on Saturday became the first elected public official to be unseated under a new amendment to the Public Officials Election and Recall Act passed by the country’s legislature in November last year.

A total of 310 citizens in Shou Yuan Village, Nanzhou Township of Pingtung County cast votes on Saturday to decide whether Village Chief Chen Ming-lun (陳明倫) should be removed from office, and more than one fourth of the electorate cast “yes” votes. As a result, Chen became the first elected public official in Taiwan to be removed from office under the country’s new Public Officials Election and Recall Act amendment to lower the threshold for unseating elected public officials.

Before the new amendment was enacted, elected public officials could be unseated only by the combination of a voter turnout of more than 50% and "yes" votes exceeding "no" votes. The new amendment mandates that an elected public official can be removed from office if more than one fourth of the electorate turns out to vote "yes." The new amendment is applicable to all elected public officials except for the country’s president and vice president.

Noting that 1,033 citizens in the villages are eligible to vote, Pingtung County Election Commission official Wu Wen-ling said that 310 of them showed up to vote, and 277 cast “yes” ballots, which exceeded the “one fourth of the electorate” requirement to recall a public official.

The recall vote was activated by villagers who were enraged by a township decision to build a columbarium in the village. Chen protested against the vote that resulted in his being unseated, saying that it was a township decision that he, as the chief of the village, had nothing to do with and couldn't do anything to change. He accused the vote to unseat him as a political struggle, and complained that the one fourth of the electorate threshold is too low. The low threshold might not have much effect on bigger election districts such as legislative districts, but will have obvious negative impact on smaller election districts such as villages, where only 200 or 300 votes could unseat the chief, he added.

He vowed that he would not participate in politics anymore.