Sat, Nov 27, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Referendum Law revisions considered

CNA , TAIPEI

A revised draft of the Referendum Law (公投法) will dramatically lower the threshold for passing a referendum proposal, an official with the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said yesterday.

Chuang Kuo-hsiang (莊國祥), section chief of the MOI's Civil Affairs Department, made the remarks at a seminar convened by several environmental protection groups on the first anniversary of the passing of the Referendum Law.

The groups claimed the threshold for the initiation and establishment of referendum topics is too high, so that except for a "defensive referendum" initiated by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and held in tandem with the March 20 presidential election, no proposals have yet been established as a referendum topic since the law cleared the opposition-dominated Legislative Yuan on Nov. 27 last year.

Chuang said that the revised draft law makes revisions on several controversial points, including lowering the threshold to establish a proposal and the abolishment of a screening committee. The screening committee, which is composed of members recommended by political parties in proportion to the number of seats they occupy in the legislature, should be abolished, he said, so that representative politics will not supersede those of a direct democracy.

The threshold for initiating a referendum topic would also be lowered from the current over 80,000 votes to just 8,000, while the threshold for petitions to establish a topic will be cut from the current 800,000 to 300,000, according to the revised draft.

Current provisions say the people should not resubmit the same topic within three years if they have withdrawn the topic, abandoned a petition drive or failed to implement a referendum, but Chuang said that the provision would be dropped under the revised draft law.

He also said that although over 90 percent of the people who cast ballots in the first nationwide referendum March 20 agreed with the two questions -- whether to strengthen Taiwan's anti-missile defense capability and whether to negotiate a peace framework with China -- they were considered invalid because fewer than half of the eligible voters took part.

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