The Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee, which in June turned down the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) proposal for a referendum on the nation's application to join the UN, yesterday gave the go-ahead to a similar proposal by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The committee's approval means that there will now be two referendums on securing a UN seat, should both parties complete the second stage of their signature collection drives, in which they need more than 825,359 signatures supporting the referendum.
The DPP started its second-stage signature drive earlier this month after the Cabinet's Appeal Committee last month overruled the review committee's rejection.
The DPP referendum would ask whether the nation should apply for UN membership under the name of "Taiwan," while the KMT version would ask whether the nation should use the name "Republic of China (ROC)" to apply to the UN and seek entry into other international organizations under a "practical" title that would uphold the nation's dignity.
The two parties hope to hold the referendums along with the presidential election in March.
The Referendum Law (公民投票法) stipulates that the second-stage signature drive has to be completed within six months of the Central Election Commission verifying the first-stage signatures.
"As the two proposals were both approved, it's unlikely they will be merged into one," Review Committee Chairman Kao Yuang-kuang (高永光) said, responding to a suggestion by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).
Lu recently expressed concern that neither proposal would succeed because of the high threshold for approving a referendum if they were held simultaneously.
Kao said at a press conference after the meeting that the 14-seat committee had approved the KMT proposal by a vote of eight to four.
The eight "yes" votes were from members representing the KMT, while Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) representative Chien Lin Whei-jun (錢林慧君), Non-Partisan Solidarity Union representative Yang Tai-shun (楊泰順) and the two People First Party representatives, Hu Tsu-ching (胡祖慶) and Ma Chieh-ming (馬傑明), all voted "no."
The review committee, composed of members recommended by political parties in proportion to their legislative seats, originally had 21 seats, but the eight DPP representatives resigned en masse following the rejection of the DPP's proposal.
"I voted against the DPP proposal because it involved changing the nation's title, which involves amending the Constitution rather than being a topic for a referendum. I also worried about the consequences for US-Taiwan relations. I voted against the KMT proposal for the same reason," Hu said at the press conference.
Chien Lin said she was against the KMT's proposal because the format was not suitable for a referendum.
"It was a question of choice, not a question of `yes' or `no.' It is designed to ask voters whether they support the name `ROC,' `Taiwan' or other names. But a referendum should pose a `yes-or-no' question," Chien Lin said.
DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) criticized the KMT's referendum proposal, saying that applying for UN membership using the name "ROC" would only cause international confusion.
"The DPP's [draft] `normal country' resolution states clearly that we need to gain entry to the UN using the name `Taiwan' because the name `ROC' may be mistaken for the `People's Republic of China [PRC],'" she said.