KMT chair apologizes for referendum defeats

12/18/2021 11:14 PM
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KMT Chairman Eric Chu (second right). CNA photo Dec. 18, 2021
KMT Chairman Eric Chu (second right). CNA photo Dec. 18, 2021

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) Eric Chu (朱立倫), chairman of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), apologized to party members after all four KMT-backed referendum proposals -- including two directly initiated by the party -- failed at the polls Saturday.

Chu, elected KMT chairman in September with more than 45 percent of the vote, said he would shoulder responsibility for the failure as he had not worked hard enough to bring out the vote in support of the KMT-backed proposals.

Despite the setback, Chu said he would not lose his resolve and that the KMT would continue to stand with the people against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which Chu said had ignored public opinion.

The four initiatives voted on Saturday covered the issues of nuclear power, pork imports, conservation of algal reefs, and whether future referendums should be held concurrently with national elections.

The KMT had initiated the referendums on pork imports and future referendum dates while campaigning in favor of the two remaining initiatives.

Under Taiwan's Referendum Act, a referendum only passes if an initiative is supported by at least one-quarter of all eligible voters and the "yes" votes exceed the "no" votes.

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), this means that an initiative has to receive the backing of 4,956,367 of Taiwan's 19,825,468 eligible voters to pass.

CEC figures showed that 4,262,451 voted against the proposal to unseal the long-mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant compared with 3,804,755 in favor, at a turnout of 41.09 percent.

On the issue of allowing pork imports containing the additive ractopamine into Taiwan, 3,936,554 voted in favor of the proposal, which was defeated by a 4,131,203 "no" vote, with a turnout of 41.09 percent.

A total of 3,901,171 voted in favor of relocating a liquid natural gas receiving terminal away from an algal reef in Taoyuan, with 4,163,464 voting against the proposal, at a turnout of 41.09 percent.

Finally, 3,951,882 voted to allow referendums to be held concurrently with general elections, which fell short of the 4,120,038 who voted against the initiative, at a turnout of 41.08 percent.

Even if the final tallies had been reversed, all four of the motions would have still failed to meet the 4,262,451 threshold needed to succeed.

In the wake of the defeat, Chu expressed his gratitude to KMT party members who had worked until the last minute to fight for "yes" votes in the four referendums.

Chu thanked former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as well as KMT Deputy General-Secretary Lin Wei-chou (林為洲), initiator of the referendum on pork imports, and lawmaker Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), initiator of the referendum on election dates, for their help on the campaign trail.

KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou, who initiated the referendum proposal for a ban on pork imports containing traces of ractopamine, resigns from his post as the party
KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou, who initiated the referendum proposal for a ban on pork imports containing traces of ractopamine, resigns from his post as the party's deputy secretary-general after it failed to obtained enough support in Saturday's vote. CNA photo Dec. 18: 2021

The KMT chairman said he also owed gratitude to former legislator and media personality Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) and to the civil groups that supported the plebiscites.

The KMT chair said while he regretted the fact that the four referendums failed to pass, he also believed that the similarity in the final tallies across the board made the results less reminiscent of issues-based referendums and more akin to a "caged plebiscite" that had harmed the country's democracy.

The KMT has argued that holding referendums concurrently with national elections would boost turnout, and the party has also insisted that same-day elections would significantly lower administrative costs and spur more discussion on referendum questions.

But Chu said the party would keep moving forward in its attempts to strengthen Taiwan's democracy.

The party chairman urged KMT members not to seek out scapegoats for the loss, instead, calling on them to entice former comrades back into the fold to join the good fight.

Chu's comments came after some in the KMT called on New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) to leave the party after Hou failed to express a clear opinion on the four referendums.

As for what comes next following his party's chastening defeat, Chu said campaigning would restart Sunday morning in support of former Legislator Yen Kuan-heng's (顏寬恒) bid to win a by-election in Taichung's second electoral district, which is scheduled to take place Jan. 9 next year.

Chu said accusations that Yen abused his position to secure financial benefits for his family were falsified rumors, with the KMT chair adding that he hoped rational discussion instead of slander would be the focus of the upcoming by-election.

Yen will face off against former DPP lawmaker Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀) in the battle to succeed the Taiwan Statebuilding Party's Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), who was ousted in a recall vote held on Oct. 23.

KMT candidate in the Jan. 9 by-election (right) campaigns at a local market in Taichung Friday. CNA photo Dec. 17, 2021
KMT candidate in the Jan. 9 by-election (right) campaigns at a local market in Taichung Friday. CNA photo Dec. 17, 2021

After the by-election, Chu said the KMT would go out in support of the party's candidates in the local elections scheduled for 2022.

The elections will see voters go to the polls to choose mayors and magistrates in a total of 22 counties and cities in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Chiang said the four referendums failed to pass because many swing voters were reluctant to cast a vote due to fierce fighting between the KMT and DPP.

Chiang said that the absence of these swing voters resulted in relatively low turnout, which he said only underlined the importance of holding future referendums concurrently with general elections.

For his part, Lin, the KMT's deputy secretary-general, tendered his resignation as a means of taking responsibility for the electoral defeat.

Lin said the KMT should find out the real cause of the failure in the four referendums and learn from the failure, with Lin going on to absolve New Taipei Mayor Hou of responsibility for the defeats.

(By Liu Kuan-ting, Wang Yang-yu, Kuo Chien-sheng and Frances Huang)

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