Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Chien Tung-ming (簡東明) has been sentenced to five years and six months in jail after being found guilty of vote-buying during his election campaign early last year, the Pingtung District Court ruled Monday.

The guilty verdict came after a first trial on charges that Chien bought votes to help him win one of the three legislative seats up for grabs from among 10 candidates in the nationwide mountain indigenous constituency in January 2016 elections with 25,940 votes.

Prosecutors had charged that Chien had paid 158 his campaign staffers to help him canvass for votes, an accusation which he denies.

An investigation was then carried out by the Pingtung County District Prosecutors' Office in March last year, and it indicted Chien and his staff for having helped him buy votes.

However, Chien argued that the money given to these people were merely bonuses during the campaigning period.

Chien can appeal the ruling.

Based on Article 117 of the Civil Servants Election And Recall Act, the election of a candidate will be declared null and void should the person be found guilty of vote-buying.

Commenting on the possible suspension of Chien as a legislator, the Ministry of the Interior's Department of Civil Affairs said after the court ruling Monday that the issue will be decided by the Legislative Yuan.

Judicial procedures for vote-buying charges can take up to three trials. Therefore, it is possible that judicial proceedings against a lawmaker for such an offense may not be finalized until after the lawmaker has finished his or her four-year term.

Although the Legislative Yuan can relieve a member of his or her duty once the member is found guilty of vote-buying after a first trial, it has never happened in practice.

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