TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Chang Sho-wen was convicted of vote buying Tuesday, making a by-election in his Yunlin County constituency unavoidable.
The Tainan High Court confirmed a guilty verdict made last November by the Yunlin District Court, leaving no appeal possible. The verdict nullifies Chang’s election and paves the way for a by-election within three months.
Chang’s father, an influential local farming official, had his subordinates and local neighborhood wardens pay off voters during the campaign for the legislative elections in January last year, the court said.
The lawmaker said his father was responsible and he himself had not known about it, but the court rejected his arguments. Several of the participants were campaign aides who often appeared at Chang’s election headquarters, leading to the perception that Chang himself must have known, a court spokesman told reporters.
The lawmaker could be forced to pay back the estimated NT$13 million in wages he had received since taking office last year, reports said.
His opponent in the election, Liu Chien-kuo of the Democratic Progressive Party, welcomed the verdict Tuesday as a victory for justice. It was Liu who had brought the case against Chang, and he showed up at the court in Tainan with a group of supporters to await the verdict.
Liu said he was ready to run for the seat in the expected by-election, but barely one hour later, Yunlin County Vice Magistrate Lee Ying-yuan announced his resignation to prepare for a bid of his own. Lee is a former lawmaker and government official who also represented the DPP in the 2002 Taipei mayoral election.
The opposition party said a third man, former lawmaker Lin Shu-shan, was also interested in running. The DPP would announce its choice within a week, officials said.
Yunlin County already had its share of political drama over the past month. Earlier in June former Kuomintang lawmaker Hsu Shu-po suddenly dropped out of the race for the party’s nomination for the year-end county magistrate elections. Barely a day later, he was named as a potential choice for chairman of the landmark Taipei 101 building, but accusations of blatant political dealmaking derailed the bid. Hsu has since kept a low profile.
DPP incumbent Su Chih-fen is now likely to face KMT candidate Chang Li-shan, the sister of influential former magistrate Chang Jung-wei, in the race for magistrate.
The legislative by-election will be the third so far this year. The KMT held on to a seat in Taipei after its lawmaker Diane Lee resigned over allegations she illegally held dual citizenship, and an independent defeated the KMT candidate in Miaoli County after the KMT incumbent was found guilty of vote buying.