Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Referendum Law request turned down

SHOWDOWN In a vote seen as unusually quick, the legislature vetoed a reconsideration request from the Executive Yuan on 12 articles of the law

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an unexpectedly fast vote, the pan-blue controlled Legislative Yuan yesterday vetoed the Executive Yuan's request that lawmakers reconsider aspects of the newly passed Referendum Law (公民投票法).

The proposed reconsiderations of various articles in the Referendum Law, including of Article 16, which empowers the legislature to initiate referendums on a vote by a majority of lawmakers, were defeated after 118 legislators voted against them.

As a result of the legislature's maintaining the original text of the law, lawmakers will continue to be able to initiate referendums, while their administrative counterparts will have no power to make referendum initiatives.

Lawmakers also vetoed an administration proposal to eliminate the referendum supervisory committee that is stipulated in the law. The committee was established in the law by the pan-blue parties to allow a way to screen referendum topics.

After the vote, the Executive Yuan expressed its disappointment with the result, saying that it hoped lawmakers would rectify problems in the law as soon as possible. The Executive Yuan maintained that both the ruling and opposition parties admit that there are significant problems with the law as written.

"The Cabinet will pursue three measures to rectify the Law," said Lin chia-lung (林佳龍), the Cabinet spokesman. "These measures will include applying for a Constitutional interpretation of the law, proposing amendments to the law, and holding a referendum on the law."

Premier Yu Shyi-kun reported to the legislature on the reconsideration proposal that the executive had submitted.

Yu said that some of the articles in the Referendum Law passed on Nov. 27 infringe on constitutional principles and produce difficulties with implementing referendums.

"Article 16 of the Referendum Law, which entitles lawmakers to file referendums on major policy questions, goes beyond the legislative power that is established in the constitution," Yu said. "The ability of lawmakers to initiate referendums encroaches on administrative power and interferes with the balance of power between the top two government branches."

Yu also said that the proposed referendum supervisory committee, composed of representatives of the political parties, runs counter to the spirit of direct democracy.

Yu said that the structure of the referendum supervisory committee, whereby committee seats will be apportioned according to how many legislative seats each party holds, made the committee a copy of the legislature. He also said that the committee's power to have the ultimate say on referendum petitions filed by the people has placed the legislature above the rule of direct democracy.

The 223-seat legislature acted with unusual suddenness on the reconsideration request, which had been submitted by the Executive Yuan last Friday. The vote came a week earlier than had been discussed by legislative leaders during a Thursday multiparty negotiation on the reconsideration request.

On the initiative of the People First Party, majority lawmakers decided to bring the reconsideration request to a vote by the end of yesterday's legislative sitting.

The sudden change in the legislative agenda frustrated the administration and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers.

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