Sun, Sep 21, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Other local governments following Pinglin's lead

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Encouraged by the holding of an advisory referendum in Taipei County's Pinglin township last weekend, other local governments nationwide yesterday made attempts to use similar polls to determine contentious local issues.

In Yunlin County yesterday, more than 5,000 local residents of Linnai township yesterday cast ballots in a recall vote for the township mayor, Chen He-shan (陳河山). Residents accuse Chen of breaking his campaign promise not to build a garbage incinerator within the township.

However, yesterday's recall vote was voided because of insufficient turnout.

The Election and Recall Law (選舉罷免法) stipulates that more than half of a township's population is needed to recall the township local government's head and that "no" voters have to exceed more than half of the total voters.

Only 5,604 of the total 15,173 township residents voted yesterday, which is about 2,000 votes shy from the 7,587 votes needed for the recall vote to be valid.

The recall vote was the first of its kind in Taiwan.

Except for a minor confrontation between supporters of Chen and advocates of the recall vote yesterday morning, the poll yesterday was carried out smoothly.

In addition to Linnai's recall vote yesterday, other areas of the country are expected to follow Pinglin's example of holding advisory referendums in the next few months.

A small town in Taipei County, Pinglin township held an advisory referendum last weekend to ask for the government's inclusion of an exit along the Taipei-Ilan Freeway for Pinglin.

Pinglin's measure caused an intense political spat between the ruling and opposition parties as to whether or not an advisory referendum should be held without the backing of a referendum law, which Taiwan currently lacks.

Similar votes are likely in Nantou County's Chichi township, and Kaohsiung City's Hsiaokang district where local residents oppose the construction of incinerators in the communities.

In Taipei County, the residents of Wulai township yesterday demanded a referendum to decide whether toll booths should be set up at the tourism spot to collect "environmental maintenance" fees from tourists.

Some residents protested that the toll booths would obstruct traffic flow and the toll policy would decrease the number of tourists.

Taipei County Magistrate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said the township residents' decision to hold the referendum would be respected, and would serve as a reference for county government's policy-making.

Penghu County Magistrate Lai Feng-wei (賴峰偉) also said yesterday the county would hold a referendum by the end of the year to decide whether the county should open casinos to boost the local tourism industry.

Commenting on the local government's holding of the non-binding referendums, Democratic Progressive Party's Director of Information and Culture Department Mason Yang (楊孟勳) yesterday said the trend reflected people's strong awareness of their community and was a positive force towards the deepening of democratic development in Taiwan.

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