Sat, Jun 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Analysts skeptical of Chen's motives

DIVERSION Some analysts think that the president is now pressing the referendum issue so that the public will focus less on the inadequacies of his administration

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rather than being a remarkable milestone in the development of the nation's democracy, President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) declaration yesterday that he would hold referendums to decide controversial domestic issues could be a ruse to cover up the poor performance of his administration, analysts said yesterday.

The pan-green camp yesterday hailed the decision by Chen to hold a referendum before the presidential election on March 20 next year, saying the referendum would be a big leap forward for the nation's democracy as the public would be granted the right to exercise their free will on public-policy issues.

Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), deputy director of the DPP's Department of Culture and Information, said yesterday that the SARS outbreak had been an important catalyst in the DPP's move to promote referendums.

"The SARS storm prompted the mainstream public opinion to think that it is necessary to properly express their will, including participating in the World Health Organization, despite possible opposition from the US or mainland China," Cheng said.

Editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒) said that Chen's announcement on referendums was an effort to placate anti-nuclear activists, including former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄).

"The decision to hold referendums is not only an answer to Lin, but also to the public desire to hold plebiscites and to resolve the inefficient operations of the legislature," Chin said.

"There is a strong sentiment that the public can no longer endure the stagnation in legislative operations and they will try to resort to a referendum law as a solution," he said.

"I personally give a thumbs-up to the DPP's strategy in directing the referendum issue, including on Taiwan's WHO entry bid and the the nuclear power plant," Chin said.

Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), a sociology professor at National Taiwan University, said the referendum bid was a DPP strategy to divert attention from its poor administrative performance over the past three years.

"In the beginning of the DPP administration, they said the country's poor economy was the result of the sluggish global economic climate, but now they say it is because the opposition parties are maliciously boycotting its economic and financial proposals. The DPP can no longer stick to these old and cliched excuses," Chiu said.

"Pushing the referendum bid might be a diversion from its administrative failures. Meanwhile it gives the Chen administration the power to resort directly to the people to offset its frustration in pushing reforms," Chiu said.

"Using referendums to decide public policy is a new tactic the DPP has created to help press its proposed policies, including cutting the number of legislative seats in half," Chiu said.

The TSU, a die-hard supporter of referendums, yesterday said the DPP's move brought it one step closer to realizing its goal of legalizing referendums.

The party has been advocating holding referendums concerning independence and sovereignty issues. The DPP, though a long-term supporter of referendums, backed away from pressing for them after it failed to stop construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in 2001.

TSU Policy Center Director Lee Shang-ren (李先仁) said, "We are more than happy that the DPP has decided to do it. The deeper meaning of this move is that the referendum draft bill is very likely to be passed in the next legislative session, providing a legal basis for the government to conduct referendums."

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