Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet could veto referendum law

POLITICAL FOOTBALL The Executive Yuan might seek to overturn whatever law the legislature passes if it considers the final version too restrictive or too flimsy

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Executive Yuan would not rule out the possibility of overturning a referendum law (公投法) passed by the legislature if it thinks the legislation straitjackets the people's exercise of direct democracy, Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday.

If the Cabinet fails in its bid to overturn what Lin said was the "birdcage referendum law," Lin said that he expects to see the people petition to call the nation's first national referendum on the flawed referendum law.

"The people, who are the lord and master of the country, have the absolute right to say no to a referendum law that sets too many limitations on their right to exercise the direct democracy that is guaranteed by the Constitution," Lin said.

Lin made the remarks yesterday morning during a seminar on referendum legislation. The seminar was organized by the Taiwan Thinktank (台灣智庫).

Lin said that the Cabinet may take full advantage of its rights authorized by the Constitution if it found that the referendum law passed by the legislature encroaches on the right of the people.

Constitutional amendments mandate that if the government wants to overturn a law or resolution passed by the legislature that it deems difficult to implement, the Cabinet must send a request to the president within 10 days of receiving the written text of the law from the legislature. If the president agrees with the Cabinet, he must then send the request to the Legislative Yuan.

Lawmakers are required to reach a final decision within 15 days of receiving the request. If lawmakers fail to reach a final decision before the deadline, the passed law or resolution automatically becomes invalid.

If more than half of the legislature vetoes the Cabinet's request, the Cabinet must accept the law or resolution, which would then go into effect three days after it is promulgated by the president.

If lawmakers are upset by the Cabinet's attempt to reject a law, they can then call for a no confidence vote on the premier.

However, a petition to call such a vote must be endorsed by one-third of the lawmakers. A no-confidence vote must be called within 72 hours of the petition being filed and the vote should be cast with signed ballots.

If more than one-half of the lawmakers vote in favor of the no-confidence motion, the premier must resign within 10 days and request the president dismiss the legislature.

If the no-confidence motion fails, lawmakers cannot petition for another no-confidence vote against the same premier within one year.

During yesterday's two-hour seminar, eight participants voiced their support for a referendum law and called on the legislature to pass such a law that would meet five standards set down by the Taiwan Thinktank.

According to Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君), director of the think tank, sound referendum legislation should minimize the restrictions on referendum issues.

In addition, people should have the right to vote on the issue that would impact the Constitution.

"It seriously encroaches on the citizens' right to amend the Constitution if people are banned from voting on such constitutional issues as the nation's flag, anthem and territory," Cheng said.

A sound referendum law should also allow the people, government and legislature to initiate a referendum, she said.

Such a law should also not set limitations when a referendum could be held, Cheng said.

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