Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Forum finds people vote often

STILL LEARNING At a conference yesterday, experts said that Taiwan's citizens love to have their opinions heard and regarded but must still learn citizenship

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Development and institutionalization of citizen's rights will determine whether the country can successfully expedite a referendum law, experts said at a DPP forum focusing on the importance of citizenship in a democracy that holds referenda yesterday afternoon.

"A large gap exists between the ideal that states `voters should elect the best legislators for carrying out the power on behalf of them' and the current electoral system," said Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華), a sociologist and former president of the Taipei Society (澄社), adding that many Taiwanese people are disappointed with their elected officials and would like more participation in their government.

Ku's said that every caucus in the Legislative Yuan has failed to demonstrate a wholehearted determination to push the referendum bill through. Ku is also the convener of a civil alliance to promote legislative reform.

"The exercise of citizenship by means of a referendum, which makes the voice of the people known on specific issues, is imperative when the citizens of this country possess limited access to exercise their citizen's rights until now," he told the conferees.

Ku said that the general public is mature enough to make their own decisions about select policies, but that, "they need more education on how to shoulder the responsibility of citizenship when an issue, such as demanding a parliamentary reform, is placed on a referendum ballot," he said.

If referenda were institutionalized locally it means "Taiwan's democracy has made a logical progression," he said.

Huang Chang-ling (黃長玲), assistant professor of politics at National Taiwan University, presented her views that the exercise of citizenship and participating in referendum voting need to be separately discussed in Taiwan.

Taiwanese voters come out in droves "thanks to the longtime development of elections in the country's democracy. But their understanding about what citizenship means is not as professional as the voting practice," Huang said.

Huang also commented on how a referendum could be used to put the issue of legislative reform before the people.

"A meaningful referendum on [legislative] reform must aim to reveal voters' preferences on how the reform should go through and what kind of the legislature they hope to see," she said.

That requires an extensive education on the democracy system from the government, the political expert said.

Contrasting Sweden and the US, Huang continued, the former emphasizes sexual equality while the latter prioritized the value of freedom in its domestic politics.

Constitutionalist Su Yeong-chin (蘇永欽) warned that a referendum on legislative reform must not be construed to become a "malignant referendum" or turn the nation's 224 lawmakers into punching bags for voters, who want to express their irrational disdain for the lawmakers.

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