Sat, Dec 10, 2016 - Page 1 News List

KMT proposal to amend Referendum Act defeated

SHREWD:The amendment would give the KMT the power to call for a referendum whenever it wants, which would lead to chaos, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming said

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members in the legislature in Taipei yesterday hold up placards calling for a second reading of the amendment bill to the Referendum Act to lower the referendum thresholds at the legislature.

Photo: Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday voted down the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus’ motion to give a second reading to a bill to amend the Referendum Act (公民投票法), proposed by a KMT lawmaker who said his version is based on a previous proposal by the DPP.

KMT legislative caucus convener Sufin Siluko (廖國棟) yesterday morning said that the KMT would propose to give the bill a second reading, adding that the party had to seek alternatives due to the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee dragging its feet.

Sufin said that if the bill was passed yesterday, a referendum on lifting the ban on imports of food products produced in Japanese prefectures surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant could be held in the second half of next year.

The announcement came after KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) launched a campaign calling for a referendum to ask the public whether it supports a proposal to ease the nation’s ban on imports from the five Japanese prefectures.

The government had been rumored to consider lifting the bans on food imports from Fukushima Prefecture, reportedly due to political pressure.

The proposed amendment, motioned by KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰), seeks to lower the signature threshold from 0.5 percent to 0.01 percent of the electorate to initiate a referendum proposal, lower the threshold to put a referendum proposal to a vote from 5 percent to 1 percent of the electorate and deciding on the outcome of the vote by a simple majority among more than a quarter of the electorate.

The lowering of the thresholds has also been the DPP’s and the New Power Party’s aim, but Fai’s version also proposes to have a referendum proposal initiated with the signatures of at least a quarter of the 113 lawmakers, which could be achieved with the KMT’s 35 seats at the legislature.

The DPP and the People First Party (PFP) legislative caucuses both voted down the KMT’s proposal.

DPP legislative caucus whip Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said that the party, while in favor of lowering the referendum threshold, wanted the draft amendments to be reviewed by the committee first.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said “a quarter of lawmakers” means the KMT caucus, which is less than one-third of the total, would be able to initiate a referendum proposal whenever it wants, “which would only give way to chaos.”

PFP legislative caucus convener Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said the party is against the proposal, as lowering the threshold would make referendums easy to hold and could lead to a waste of public resources as well as hampering governmental efficiency.

Committee convener Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said the committee had made plans to review the draft amendments this month at the latest, adding that the DPP should not put emphasis on the KMT’s proposal.

It is probably a side effect of the KMT’s infighting over the party chairperson election in July next year, Chao said.

Additional Reporting by Alison Hsiao

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