Fri, Oct 10, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Experts to consult on plebiscites

CONSULTATION Speakers from overseas will attend a symposium in Taipei this weekend to discuss the practical implications of referendums

BY MELODY CHEN  /  STAFF REPORTER

The world's leading referendum experts will gather in Taipei this weekend to participate in a symposium hosted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Dane Waters, president of the US Initiative & Referendum Institute, and Bruno Kaufmann, president of IRI Europe, have been invited to speak at the conference entitled "International Symposium on Initiatives, Referendums and Direct Democracy."

Other distinguished speakers include Andreas Gross, a member of the Swiss Parliament, Theo Schiller, president of the More Democracy Institute, and Adrian Schmid, former chairman of Switzerland's Green Party.

One of the conference's primary purposes is to allow people in Taiwan to learn from international experience with direct democracy realized through initiatives and referendums.

The foundation hopes that the conference will give politicians, intellectuals and the media in Taiwan the opportunity to improve their understanding of how a system of initiatives and referendums work.

"The experts can offer opinions on how referendums can be applied to policy-making and other serious issues that concern the Constitution. They can also talk about how to overcome the conflicts that could be triggered by a referendum," said Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂), who is also president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) suggested the country conduct a nationwide consultative referendum to enter the WHO after Taiwan failed in its seventh bid to join the UN body in May, a number of local-level consultative referendums have been held on various issues.

Referendums are controversial in Taiwan, because they could be used to influence or determine sensitive issues regarding the country's status.

The international experts are to visit the Cabinet and the legislature to exchange opinions on Monday.

One of the foundation's projects is to invite former US president Bill Clinton to visit Taiwan in the middle of November. The foundation hopes that Clinton will deliver a public speech during his visit.

Kau declined to reveal how much the foundation would pay for Clinton's visit.

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