The Referendum Review Committee last night turned down a referendum proposal by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) on abolishing the committee by a vote of four in favor to nine opposed, with one abstention.
The TSU submitted the proposal endorsed by more than 94,000 citizens in response to the committee’s three consecutive rejections of referendum proposals initiated by the party on the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between 2009 and last year.
Citing as a rationale the committee’s restriction of the public’s right to let its voice be heard through plebiscites, the TSU requested a referendum on the question: “Do you agree that the Executive Yuan Referendum Review Committee, set up in accordance with the Referendum Act (公民投票法), should continue to exist?”
On Nov. 16, the TSU handed the referendum request to the Central Election Commission for review. The commission handed the file over to the Referendum Review Committee, which was to decide whether the proposal met the legal requirements.
After a two-hour deliberation, the proposal was rejected for two reasons, committee chairman Chao Yung-mao (趙永茂) said.
The committee saw no conflict of interest in the committee deciding whether to approve the proposal or not, Chao said.
“According to Council of Grand Justices Interpretation No. 601, conflict-of-interest rules apply to individual public servants and not government organs,” he said.
Secondly, the proposal was tantamount to a “referendum of laws,” which means that you have to oppose the law, in this case the Referendum Act, to initiate the proposal, Chao said.
Chao said the question should have been: “Do you oppose the Executive Yuan’s Referendum Review Committee, set up in accordance with the Referendum Act?”
Kuo Lin-yung (郭林勇), one of the four members in favor of the proposal, said he supported the initiative because the committee must “help people realize their rights to have plebiscites as long as they have collected sufficient endorsements” as required by the act.
“Those who opposed the proposal interpreted the act in a strict way, which I disagree with. Although the question was put in a positive tense, the TSU clearly stated that it opposes the committee,” Kuo said.
Another supporter of the proposal, Chi Chun-chen (紀俊臣), a political science professor at Tunghai University, said the proposal met all the requirements to initiate a plebiscite on a “referendum of laws.”
According to Article 2 of the Referendum Act, a “referendum of laws” is one of the matters that the act applies to, Chi said.
“It’s true that the TSU did not put the question well, but it was still a classical case of a ‘referendum of laws.’ There was no reason to reject it,” he said.
In response, TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said last night that it was “unacceptable” that members of the committee voted on the case because of the conflict of interest. The second reason given by the committee was just an excuse for its anti-democracy mindset, he said.