Tue, Jan 06, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Power plant referendum on hold

DENIED The pan-blue legislative caucuses decided that a referendum on the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should not coincide with the March 20 election

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) legislative caucuses yesterday decided not to initiate a referendum on the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant during this legislative session.

This means the question of what to do with the power plant will not be put to the vote on the same day as the presidential election on March 20, although the "defensive referendum" proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) could still be held on that day.

At a press conference yesterday morning, KMT legislative whip Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) said that the KMT and PFP legislative caucuses will not initiate any form of referendum to be held in conjunction with the presidential election, including the one to decide the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

"While we respect people's right to exercise direct democracy, we, as a responsible party, will pass the opportunity to mount any referendum alongside the presidential election because the presidential poll is the best and most genuine way of expressing people's opinions," Lee said.

He said voting for the blue camp's Lien Chan (連戰) and James Soong (宋楚瑜) will show people's support for the opposition's causes of educational and legislative reform and opposing price hikes in the national health insurance plan.

Lee held the news conference following a meeting between KMT Secretary General Lin Fong-cheng (林豐正) and his PFP counterpart, Tsai Chung-hsiung (蔡鐘雄), at which they discussed whether to initiate a referendum during this legislative session.

The KMT and PFP would have had to file their request today, as the legislature is holding its last procedural committee meeting to carve out the agenda for the last plenary session. The legislature's winter recess is due to start on Jan. 13.

The controversial new Referen-dum Law (公民投票法) enables the Legislative Yuan to initiate a referendum on topics that lawmakers feel should be referred to the public.

The electorate can also initiate a referendum by filing a petition endorsed by 0.5 percent of eligible voters.

The topic of such a referendum must be screened by the Referendum Review Committee before it can be put to the vote.

While it is widely believed that it might be too late for the electorate to initiate a referendum on the same day as the presidential election, Chen could get his wish to call a "defensive referendum" if he obtains the Cabinet's approval by Feb. 24.

Lee yesterday challenged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to assist former DPP chairman and staunch anti-nuclear activist Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) to initiate a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant before noon yesterday.

"I have only one thing to say to the DPP: credibility bankruptcy," said KMT Legislator Liao Fung-te (廖風德).

"We quit playing the March 20 referendum game and we'll let President Chen play it alone. People will eventually know they don't mean what they say," Liao said.

PFP whip Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) said a referendum is a right that belongs to voters, not a tool to be used for electioneering, and called on Chen to put the brakes on his defensive referendum.

"Chen has tied the `defensive referendum' to the presidential election. It is not only a waste of taxpayers' money, but also creates social unrest and is clearly aimed at wooing voters," Chou said.

In response to the opposition bloc's accusation, DPP whip Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that the DPP will not "dance to the tune of political jesters."

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