Fri, Jan 07, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Referendum petitioning amendments criticized

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei Society and Nuke-4 Referendum Initiative Association yesterday criticized draft amendments to the Referendum Law (公投法) approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

"The people have the basic right to initiate or recall laws; however, demanding minimum requirements for the holding of a referendum deprives people of this right," association spokesman Chang Kuo-lung (張國龍) said.

The draft amendments stipulate that a referendum proposal requires the signatures of 0.5 percent of the number of people who voted in the latest presidential election (presently around 65,000 signatures) while a successful petition needs the signatures of 2 percent of that figure (presently 260,000).

"Such a high threshold has the potential to discourage people from initiating a proposal. In California, a referendum proposal only requires one individual and in Switzerland only five," Taipei Society chairman Hung Yu-hung (洪裕宏) said.

Chang said that even if the government's support for the draft was intended to please the US and offer a friendly gesture to the opposition, it was a regressive move on the part of the government with regard to the nation's democracy.

The association's own proposal would keep the level of 0.5 percent of the electorate for proposing a referendum, and lower the requirement for a successful petition to 1.5 percent.

The association believed that these numbers were reasonable for the practice of "true democracy."

Chang also urged President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to be careful in his consideration of nominees for the new Cabinet, while Hung suggested the new Cabinet should be more humanistic, with members holding "idealistic vision" for the administration.

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