Holding a referendum simultaneously with national elections next year will be a significant test of the nation's democracy and a good opportunity to show the world the resolve of Taiwanese people, President Chen Shui-bian (
"In less than a year, we will have two national elections -- the legislative and the presidential. They are likely to be held in conjunction with several referendums," he said.
Chen was referring to the referendum campaigns initiated by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The DPP has been gathering signatures to petition for a referendum on reclaiming the KMT's "stolen assets" and applying for UN membership under the name "Taiwan."
To counter the DPP's moves, the KMT has proposed holding a referendum on recovering the resources "seized" by the DPP administration and on opening direct sea and air links with China.
Chen made the remarks while addressing a military promotion ceremony in Taipei yesterday morning.
The ceremony, held twice a year, saw nine majors-general promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and vice admiral, and 33 colonels and captains made major-generals and rear admirals. The promotions will take effect next month.
Yesterday's ceremony carried special significance because the statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (
The president added that starting on Sunday, the "articles of faith" guiding the nation's armed forces would be reduced to three from five.
The five articles were: doctrine, leadership, nation, responsibility and honor. From next month, these will be reduced to just three -- nation, responsibility and honor.
The move is a significant step in the nationalization of the armed forces and marks a milestone in Taiwan's deepening democracy, Chen said.
Criticizing the articles of "doctrine" and "leadership" as the former authoritarian regime's scheme to develop a personality cult, the president said that turning the armed forces into an army that served a certain party and individual not only ran counter to the principles of democracy, but also prevented the country from becoming a free, democratic and normal republic.
Since he was elected president in 2000, Chen said he had worked to nationalize the armed forces and turn them into a force that protects the people and the country.
"In a democracy, we have zero tolerance of military interference in politics," he said.
"Nor do we want to see politics and elections affect the regular training and management of the armed forces," he said.