Thu, Dec 04, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Hardcore DPP members pressured Chen

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was forced to bring forward the announcement of his plan to hold a "defensive referendum" from Dec. 13, the day he officially becomes his party's presidential candidate, to last Saturday because of pressure from the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) hardcore supporters, insiders said.

Disappointed with the referendum legislation passed last week, the more radical of the DPP's members wanted evidence of Chen's democratic convictions.

Sources from the DPP yesterday confirmed to the Taipei Times that Chen was originally planning to announce the defensive referendum during his speech to accept his party's nomination next Saturday.

Chen will be officially nominated by the party's Central Executive Committee on Dec.10, and his candidacy will be validated by the party's annual national congress the following Saturday.

"This is largely because of the enormous pressure from our traditional supporters, who were very discontented with the DPP's withdrawal of a clause in the law which would have allowed for votes to change the country's name, flag and territory," one source said.

"The DPP understands that because we are not the majority party in the Legislature, it is very difficult for us to have the DPP's version of the referendum law passed. That's why we didn't try very hard to sway some of the pan-blue legislators," the source said.

The source explained that Chen's proposal for a defensive referendum, which surprised many, is intended to quell the anger of the pro-independence supporters. However, the source said that Chen is definitely not going to hold a referendum on independence.

"That's why later on we saw the emergence of the possible topics for the vote focusing on asking China to dismantle missiles aimed at Taiwan and rejecting the `one country, two systems' formula, which are irrelevant to the unification or independence issues," the source said.

"Chen made a quick announcement to hold a defensive referendum, and worried everyone whether it will be an independence vote. The party had to subsequently make further explanations to society and to the US that the administration definitely will not touch on independence issues in the vote," the source said.

DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) yesterday denied that the party had tried to quell doubts about whether Chen is going to hold an independence referendum by proposing the two topics irrelevant to the independence issue.

"There is no such problem as we've stated clearly that we won't hold referendums on the independence or unification issues," Lee said.

In related news, Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) said yesterday that it would be more cost efficient if the "defensive" referendum were held at the same time as the next presidential election, as recommended by Chen.

Fielding questions at the Legislative Yuan's Home and Nations Committee, Yu said that holding a referendum would cost between NT$400 million (US$11.76 million) and NT$500 million (US$14.7 million) and that money could be saved if it were held simultaneously with the presidential election, which is slated for March 20 next year.

Yu said that as far as he knew, neither the Ministry of the Interior nor the Central Election Committee had budgeted funds for holding any referendums. If a referendum is held, the government's Second Reserve Fund may have to be used, he said.

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