KMT to boycott referendums

U-TURN: KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung said that aside from the Jan. 12 referendums, the party did not rule out boycotting the two other referendums scheduled for March

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Jan 01, 2008 - Page 1

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) -- the initiator of two referendums to be held this month and in March -- resolved yesterday to boycott the two referendums -- the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its own -- that are scheduled to be held simultaneously with the legislative poll on Jan. 12.

The KMT's Central Standing Committee passed the resolution to boycott the DPP-proposed referendum on recovering assets stolen by the KMT and the KMT-proposed referendum to empower the legislature to investigate misconduct of senior government officials and their family members.

The resolution was reached after an extraordinary committee meeting yesterday morning.

"Referendums, as a sacred [democratic tool], have been twisted and kidnapped [by the DPP] and have become a tool to provoke conflict. Therefore, we sadly decided today to urge voters to boycott the [two] referendums [on Jan. 12]," KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) told a press conference.

"This is a very painful decision for us," he said.

Wu said the party did not rule out the possibility of boycotting the two UN-membership referendums -- one by the DPP to join the UN using the name "Taiwan" and the other by the KMT to "return" to the UN using the nation's official title "Republic of China" -- scheduled to be held with the presidential election on March 22.

However, the party could take a different approach if the Central Election Commission (CEC) "pulls back before it is too late," Wu said, urging the CEC to hold the two UN referendums and the presidential poll separately or adopt a two-step voting procedure.

Wu said although the CEC came up with a compromise system that allows voters to follow a two-step voting procedure as long as tables and ballot boxes in polling stations are placed in accordance with the one-step voting format, "things are very likely to go wrong."

The party accepted the compromise version on Saturday, ending the voting procedure controversy that had plagued the nation for the last six weeks.

Wu said the KMT was trying to maintain democratic values and hoped to ensure the neutrality of electoral commissions.

He said the KMT had "made concessions" for the sake of the nation's democracy even though the DPP had "directly controlled" the CEC and "bullied the KMT."

The KMT's move came after a group of its legislators last week launched a boycott campaign.

The campaign was followed by a similar movement initiated by six minor political parties on Sunday.

Approached for comment earlier yesterday, KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said: "We have heard similar views [about the need to boycott the referendums] from all around the nation."

He said that he previously indicated he would vote in the KMT's anti-corruption referendum because the referendum was proposed by the party.

But he would follow the standing committee's resolution if the rationale behind the party's change of mind was "acceptable," Ma said.

He also dismissed media speculation that he and running mate Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), who also advocated the boycott idea, had a disagreement regarding the issue.

"People have the right to hold referendums or to claim or reject ballots ... but people can also give up such a right. They are under no obligation to vote in referendums," he said.

In response, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday that the KMT's decision proved that its true intention was to block the DPP's referendum proposal.

Hsieh urged the public to support the DPP's referendum proposal seeking to reclaim the KMT stolen assets.

Smaller parties also criticized the KMT's policy U-turn and its motive for launching the referendum.

Describing the KMT's call to boycott the two referendums as "ridiculous," Jou Yi-cheng (周奕成), founder of the Third Society Party, berated the DPP and the KMT for using the referendums as tools and putting the electorate in a difficult position.

"Voters will suffer one way or another, regardless of whether they decide to pick up referendum ballots or not," he said.

Jou said his party would not tell voters what to do because it is up to the voters to decide whether to pick up ballots.

The Third Society Party hoped that political parties would stop initiating referendums in future, however, particularly parties that enjoy a legislative majority, he said, because referendums should be launched by the people.

Nor should political parties tell people what to do because it comes down to the people to decide whether to pick up a referendum ballot or not, he said.

Party spokesman Lin Chih-jen (林致真) urged the electorate to make good use of the second legislative ballot to punish the DPP and the KMT.

Christina Liu (劉憶如), a legislator-at-large candidate for the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union, said the source of the problem was the infighting between the two principal parties.

She described the two parties' month-long bickering over the one-step and two-step voting systems as a "two-man act," adding that social unrest would continue if the two parties continued to dominate in the legislature.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling