In a surprise development, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday announced at a rally in Tainan his intention to push through a new round of referendums at the end of the year.
After expressing gratitude to Tainan residents for their support in the presidential election, Chen proposed that a referendum be held on two topics -- whether or not to halve the number of seats in the Legislative Yuan and whether to establish a committee to review Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) party assets.
Proposed laws on both issues are currently stalled in bill form in the Legislative Yuan due to disagreement among legislators.
The proposed law to reduce the size of the legislature envisions cutting the number of seats in the legislature from 225 to 113 and would go into effect in 2007, but the bill failed to pass in the run-up to the presidential election last month.
The bill to review the legality of KMT party assets has met with resistance from legislators who belong to the KMT and the People First Party (PFP).
Chen did not offer additional specifics about the newly proposed referendum topics.
Saying that if the pan-blue camp wanted a referendum, he would give them one, Chen drew attention to what he characterized as discrepancies in the pan-blue camp's reasoning.
"The pro-blue camp originally accused us of ulterior motives when we proposed holding a referendum along with the presidential election," Chen said.
"However, they now obviously think that it's fair to hold a referendum during an election, since they want to tie the year-end legislative elections to a referendum on the establishment of a `truth committee' and a committee to review the national security defense mechanism," he said, referring to the pan-blue camp's proposal to hold a referendum on whether to establish a committee that would investigate the assassination attempt on Chen and whether to review documents related to the implementation of the national security mechanism.
The pan-blue camp has called both the assassination attempt and the triggering of the national security mechanism into question, accusing Chen of ploys to reduce the number of votes cast for the KMT-PFP alliance in the presidential election.
Chen lambasted the pan-blue camp's demands.
"What is the truth? The truth is that they are being sore losers. The truth is that they are being irresponsible by not stepping down after their loss. They are making society pay for their irrationality," Chen said.
Chen characterized the pan-blue politicians as looking down on the Taiwanese people.
"How can they say that pan-green supporters are low class? Is it shameful to be `barefooted?' How does wearing leather shoes make someone `better?'" Chen said, referring to PFP Legislator Liu Wen-shiung's (劉文雄) comparison of "leather-shoed" Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) to "barefooted," newly sworn-in Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全).
The rally was held to thank the Democratic Progressive Party's Tainan supporters for their help and enthusiasm during the presidential election last month.
Much attention was given to the president's security at the rally, with increased police personnel on alert.
The president wore a bulletproof vest and spoke at a podium that was protected by bullet-proof glass.