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Civic group leaders slam Referendum Act amendments

2019/06/17 23:50:26

CNA file photo

Taipei, June 17 (CNA) Several leaders of Taiwanese civic groups slammed the passage of amendments to the Referendum Act by the Legislative Yuan on Monday, saying it will make it harder for an initiative to gain public approval.

The most controversial of the revisions pushed through by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-controlled Legislature was a measure that will only allow referendums to be held on the fourth Saturday of August every two year beginning in 2021.

That means no referendums calling attention to difficult issues for the government will be on the ballot when President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) runs for re-election in January 2020.

It also separates referendum years from election years in the future, as Taiwan's presidential election and elections for local government offices are all held in even-numbered years.

Liu Chih-chien (劉志堅), chairman of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said preventing referendums from being held together with elections will make it difficult to approve any proposal in the future, and they could be more vulnerable to political manipulation.

Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修), founder of Nuclear Myth Busters, said the amendments are tantamount to confiscating people's ballots. He also questioned how timely referendums could be if they can only be held every two years.

Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩), president of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, an anti-same-sex marriage group, argued that because most referendums are held to oppose a government policy, the amendments could lower turnout, making it harder for them to reach their threshold.

Under Taiwan's Referendum Act, a referendum can only be approved if it is supported by at least 25 percent of eligible voters and by more than half of the votes cast.

Former Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) expressed regret over the amendments, and she urged the public to elect better legislators to make new revisions, saying the battle was not yet over.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) caucus slammed the DPP and the DPP-controlled Legislature for "killing referendums and deserting democracy" in a statement issued Monday.

DPP legislative caucus whip Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said, however, that the Referendum Act was revised without a hidden political agenda.

She said the Legislature was just fixing problems that emerged from a previous amendment that the same Legislature passed lowering the thresholds needed to put referendum initiatives to a vote.

(By Yang Su-min, Wu Hsin-yun, Chen Chun-hua, Wang Yang-yu and
Emerson Lim)