Wed, Mar 12, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Hsieh urges Ma to back referendums

COMPROMISE A deal proposed by the DPP would see the referendums decoupled from the presidential election if the KMT agrees to lower the referendum thresholds

By Ko Shu-ling And Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) campaign team yesterday urged Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to support the two referendums seeking UN membership, with the KMT set to announce today its decision on whether it will stage a boycott.

"We are calling on Ma to give Taiwan a chance," Hsieh spokesman Shen Fa-hui (沈發惠) said at Hsieh's campaign office.

Shen said the referendums were initiated in accordance with the law and had attracted attention from the international community.

"The referendums are about the interests of the nation and the will of the Taiwanese people," he said.

"We are calling on Ma to resist the pressure from his party and exercise leadership. We are also urging the KMT to put national interest before its interest and support the two referendums," Shen said.

ACCOMODATING

He said the DPP had originally insisted on joining the UN using the name "Taiwan," but had decided to support both plebiscites for the sake of the nation.

The DPP's referendum suggests joining the UN using the name "Taiwan," while the KMT poll proposes "rejoining" the body using the country's official name, the Republic of China (ROC), or any other "practical" title that would uphold the country's dignity.

The referendums are scheduled to be held together with the presidential election on March 22.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has said he would hold cross-party negotiations on decoupling the referendums on UN membership from the presidential election if the KMT were willing to amend the Referendum Law (公投法) to lower the voting threshold for referendums.

The Referendum Law requires a 50 percent voter turnout -- or approximately 8 million voters -- for a referendum to be valid.

In addition, the law stipulates that the signatures of 0.5 percent of eligible voters -- or approximately 80,000 -- be collected to apply to hold a referendum. In the second application stage, 5 percent of eligible voters -- or approximately 800,000 -- must sign the petition.

PREDICTION

During an interview with SETTV broadcast last night, Chen predicted that the KMT would decide to boycott the referendums. He said this was proof that the party had only proposed its referendum to counter the DPP's plebiscite.

"Their referendum proposal was inspired by the election, but ours was inspired by our belief in democracy," Chen said. "It has always been my belief that a referendum is more important than winning an election. It did not matter to me whether I won re-election in 2004, but it was important that the referendum was held."

Chen urged the public to support the referendums. Regardless of which party they vote for, people must back Taiwan, he said.

The referendums would not endanger the country, Chen said, because they were a way of expressing the will of the Taiwanese to join the UN. In any event, he said, the country would not immediately gain access to the world body because an application process would be required.

Chen said the KMT's proposal to hold the referendums separately from the election was just an excuse. He said it was clear that the KMT opposed referendums in principle, regardless of the topic.

On the election, Chen said the last week was key and that Hsieh stood a chance of winning.

"Elections are like a marathon. You never know who will win the race until the last minute," he said. "It is a good sign that Hsieh is optimistic about the election."

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