Sat, Jul 05, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Opposition sets referendum limits

DIGGING IN The pan-blue camp ruled out passing a referendum law that would allow votes on the nation's status even if Beijing carries out its threats to invade

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The KMT and PFP caucuses yesterday proposed several limitations to any legislation on referendums, including a measure that would prevent the president from calling a so-called `defensive referendum' on independence should China invade.

After agreeing on Thursday to hold a special three-day session starting on Tuesday to discuss the referendum legislation and six economic-reform bills, legislators yesterday began staking out their positions on the most contentious issues.

As well as excluding referendums on the nation's status, the pan-blue camp also demanded that: the law establish a mechanism to hold political parties or persons initiating referendum responsible for the outcome; referendums should not be conducted in the three months before a presidential election and the Legislative Yuan must make the final decision on holding referendums.

The DPP immediately criticized the proposals.

"These three conditions are nonsense," DPP legislative caucus leader Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said. "The referendum legislation was supposed to be designed to redeem a fault in the representative system of government by authorizing citizens to carry out their initiative and referendum rights.

"Requiring the legislature to approve individual referendums undermines the nature of the referendum legislation," Chen said.

The other two conditions were unreasonable and unheard-of ideas in modern democracies, he said.

The KMT yesterday reiterated its opposition to the DPP's plan to include provisions for a defensive referendum in the legislation.

"Election considerations were behind the ruling party's proposal to allow for a defensive referendum," said KMT legislative leader Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進).

He said that such a referendum would enrage China and that cross-strait tension would boost the standing of the DPP in an election.

DPP Legislator Jao Yung-ching (趙永清) denied Lee's claims, saying that a defensive referendum framework would help Taiwan build a defense to Beijing's military threat.

"Institutionalizing a defensive referendum is irrelevant to the presidential election. Instead, setting out a framework for the practice will enable the country to immediately demonstrate the majority opinion in the face of a military attack from China," Jao said.

While the two camps moved little on the referendum issue, the KMT legislative caucus gave ground on the agenda for next week's special session.

The KMT said it now wanted to review the statute governing the establishment and management of free ports ahead of the referendum legislation.

The pan-blue camp had wanted to pass the referendum law first before examining six economics bills. The DPP wants to pass the economics bills first.

KMT legislative whip Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) explained that the party had changed its stance because it wanted to stimulate the economy and boost the development of Kaohsiung Harbor.

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