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Talk of the Day -- Finally, a referendum that might count

2013/03/05 18:16:46

Based on the way things are moving, Taiwan might finally hold a referendum with valid results, according to local media reports.

For a referendum to be legally binding in Taiwan, there are two requirements. First, over 50 percent of the 1.8 million eligible voters have to cast a vote. Second, more than half of the valid ballots must say "yes" or "no" to the proposed question.

Since the Referendum Law took effect in January 2004, all six of the national referendums held have proved invalid because none of them have crossed the first threshold.

This time, the government has proposed to hold a referendum, possibly as early as July, asking the citizens whether the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project, which has been under construction since 1999, should be halted.

Both the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has a nuclear-free policy, appear determined to make this one count.

But just to be certain, the DPP wants the threshold to be lowered. One of the proposals is that a vote should be valid so long as the yes-vote surpasses both the no-vote and 25 percent of the number of eligible voters. The KMT insists, however, that the current threshold should stand.

A possible new development involves the question of absentee ballots and whether to amend the law to allow such ballots in order to increase voter turnout. According to one estimate, there are as many as 4.3 million voters who do not normally live in Taiwan.

The following are excerpts from local media reports on the referendum:

United Evening News:

In order to maximize voter turnout, Mayor Eric Chu of New Taipei, where the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is being built, asked for absentee ballots to be allowed. The proposal has won the support of President Ma Ying-jeou, Premier Jiang Yi-huah and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang.

If absentee ballots are allowed in the referendum, it would pave the way for the same mechanism to be adopted for presidential elections. The only question is whether the Legislature can amend the law in time for the referendum.

China Times:

For civic groups opposed to nuclear power, pledges by the president and the premier to vote in the referendum do not mean very much. Based on past experience, the vote is doomed to failure unless voters are mobilized in the same way they would be in a national election, they argue.

These groups have said that the KMT should show more sincerity by allowing absentee ballots so that differences over major policy issues can truly be resolved through referendum.

Liberty Times:

The DPP has decided not to initiate a parallel vote but will confront the government head-on, calling on all citizens to build a nuclear-free homeland by casting a yes-vote in the referendum, according to DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang.

Su has also urged voters to take part in a demonstration organized by anti-nuclear groups that will take place March 9.

(By Jay Chen)
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