Cablegate: High Court Rules On Kaohsiung Mayor -- Chen Chun Stays

DE RUEHIN #2501/01 3231046
P 191046Z NOV 07






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: High Court Rules on Kaohsiung Mayor -- Chen Chun Stays

REF: A) Taipei 2379 B) Taipei 1565 C) Taipei 1457 D) Taipei 1382
E) Taipei 520 F)2006 Taipei 4152 G) 2005 Taipei 3793


1. (SBU) Summary. At 4 p.m. on November 16, the Taiwan High Court,
Kaohsiung Branch, rejected a District Court ruling which had
nullified the December 2006 Kaohsiung mayoral election (refs B and
D). DPP Mayor Chen Chu will, thus, retain her mayoral seat. In a
related suit, the High Court upheld the District Court's earlier
ruling that neither voter fraud nor ballot manipulation occurred
during the 2006 Kaohsiung mayoral election (refs B, E and F). As
such, decisions in both lawsuits fell against the KMT. No further
appeals are allowable in either case. Mayor Chen Chu expressed
gratitude for the High Court's decision, claiming justice was
served. The defeated KMT former mayoral candidate Huang Chun-ying
said he respects the court ruling, while KMT presidential candidate
Ma Ying-jeou suggested the DPP may have pressured the judges to
overturn the appeal. Weekend rallies in Kaohsiung by both parties
were peaceful and muted. End summary.

2. (SBU) In an announcement that surprised many locals (ref A) on
November 16, the Taiwan High Court, Kaohsiung Branch, rejected an
August District Court ruling that nullified the December 2006
Kaohsiung mayoral election. In anticipation of the court
announcement, the Kaohsiung police had deployed 800 police officers
at the court to prevent a possible riot should the nullification be
upheld. Some 200 DPP supporters and a small handful of KMT
supporters gathered near the police barricades in front of the
court. Police removed two DPP supporters from the scene when minor
scuffles broke out before the announcement. Another 100-plus DPP
supporters gathered peacefully in front of City Hall to attend Chen
Chu's anticipated 5 p.m. press conference. Upon learning the ruling
would keep Chen Chu in office, the crowd at the court dispersed
immediately and without incident. Supporters at the City Hall
cheered the announcement and stayed for the press conference,
presenting flowers to the Mayor.

3. (U) DPP Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu expressed gratitude for the High
Court judges' decision and professed her faith in the election and
judicial systems. She stated that justice had finally been
rendered. She noted that the final court ruling was more refined
and precise in interpreting the legal terms "coercive" and
"intimidating" (ref C). Chen Chu then urged the KMT to accept the
decision and her supporters to continue their support for her
administration as well as for the DPP party candidates in the
legislative and presidential campaigns. Only in this way, she said,
will the DPP candidates win by a large margin and avoid the type of
lawsuits that have dogged her over the last past year. DPP
presidential candidate Frank Hsieh said he was delighted that the
final verdict averted a possible riot. DPP vice-presidential
candidate Su Tseng-chang congratulated Chen Chu and praised the
judges for a wise and fair verdict, urging the KMT-dominated City
Council not to boycott Chen Chu's administration. President Chen
Shui-bian thanked the judiciary for restoring Chen Chu's reputation,
confirming the value of Taiwan's democracy, and placing the
interests of Kaohsiung citizens over politics. Although a candidate
has a right to litigate, Chen argued that such cases consume
enormous social and judicial resources. He stressed that winning by
a large margin removes the cause for such cases.

4. (U) The defeated former KMT mayoral candidate Huang Chun-ying
expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict but said he respected the
court ruling. He called on voters in the legislative and
presidential elections to use their votes to express dissatisfaction
with the DPP's "notorious" campaign tactics. He then vowed to help
KMT candidates in the upcoming 2008 political campaigns. KMT
presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou said he respected the final
verdict, but suggested the legal system may have been manipulated by
the ruling DPP. KMT Kaohsiung-elected legislator Lo Shi-hsiung
charged that the alleged vote-buying scandal (ref F) and the High
Court ruling were both parts of a DPP conspiracy. He regretted that
the judges were not courageous enough to use their official
positions to guide Taiwan's election culture onto the right track.
Some KMT legislators suggested that President Chen Shui-bian was
informed of the final verdict prior to its announcement since he had
predicted Chen Chu would win the case two days before the verdict
was announced. President Chen vigorously denied these insinuations.
Both Ma and Lo urged Taiwan voters to use their votes to defeat the
DPP administration.

5. (SBU) Taiwan appeals courts are not limited in their review
process. They have the authority to review all evidence and points

TAIPEI 00002501 002 OF 002

of law (ref B) involved in a case. In this case, the High Court
overturned the District Court's ruling (refs C and D) that Chen
Chu's election-eve press conference was "coercive and intimidating,"
as specified by the Taiwan Election Law, "forc[ing] voters to vote
against their will."

6. (SBU) National Sun Yat-Sen University Political Science Professor
Liao Da-chi told AIT/K that she was "stunned" by the court verdict.
She refused to comment on charges that the judges were "pro-Green."
Liao noted that while the first ruling had been contradictory, the
final ruling was stunning in the absence of any new evidence
controverting the first ruling. Liao surmised that many Kaohsiung
voters might be disappointed with the court ruling and turn against
the DPP. The KMT, she pointed out, might be able to use the verdict
to gain voter sympathy.

7. (U) The DPP held a rally in Kaohsiung the next day, November 17.
With Chen Chu's court victory, the planned rally became more of a
celebration for Chen Chu than a campaign effort for DPP legislative
candidates. Police at the scene estimated about three thousand
people attended the rally, making its scale much smaller than
expected by DPP organizers. President Chen, DPP presidential and
vice presidential candidates, and Premier Chang attended the rally.
All urged the KMT not to cause "any more chaos" over its defeat in
the 2006 Kaohsiung mayoral election. The five DPP candidates
running in the Kaohsiung legislative elections were presented at the
rally to solicit support from the crowd.

8. (U) On the same day, the KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou
inaugurated his Kaohsiung campaign office. Ma emphasized the
importance of reviving the economy and promised to bring prosperity
to the city by opening the three direct links for Kaohsiung. Ma
used the occasion to campaign for KMT candidates running in the
legislative elections and urged voters not to be deceived again by
the DPP, calling the DPP campaign pledges only "campaign rhetoric."

9. (SBU) Comment. The victory of Mayor Chen Chu in both suits
against her election has increased KMT fears of potential DPP "last
minute election tactics" in the upcoming January legislative and
March presidential elections. While many DPP supporters acknowledge
that Chen Chu has been a weak mayor and that a loss in her court
case might actually have been a greater boost to DPP campaign
efforts, the party hopes to find a way to use this victory to
strengthen its campaign momentum for the upcoming legislative and
presidential elections. End Comment.



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