Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Nuke-4 calls for amendments to Referendum Law

BIRD CAGE The lobby group is disappointed with the legislature, whose failure to act it says has exposed the Referendum Law to manipulation by political parties

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A political pressure group yesterday called on the ruling and opposition parties to pass amendments to the Referendum Law (公投法), arguing that such changes would empower people to exercise direct democracy and ensure that political parties cannot manipulate the public.

The Nuke-4 Referendum Initiative Association expressed its disappointment with the legislature, which it said has allowed the Referendum Law to remain "stranded in a bird cage."

"While referendums are a basic right of the people, we'd really hate to see that instrument become a pawn of political parties," association chief executive Iap Phok-bun (葉博文) said. "High legal thresholds, however, diminish the opportunity of ordinary people to initiate a referendum and therefore turn referendums into a toy of political parties."

Iap said the organization sent letters to legislators on Sept. 11 and Oct. 3, in which it asked them to support their proposed revisions.

Only 26 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and five Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislators have responded so far, he said.

Iap said the group would step up its lobbying effort and would visit legislators tomorrow.

The association also intends to launch a "non-violent" action on Friday, Iap said, without providing details. He said, however, that former DPP chairman and founder of the association Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) would participate.

The association hopes the legislature would approve the changes during the legislative session.

Deputy executive of the association Wu Chien-kuo (吳建國) said the proposal was to lower the threshold for a referendum request from the 80,000 voters -- or 0.5 percent of eligible voters -- at the last presidential election, to 100.

It also seeks to lower the threshold for a referendum request that necessitates 5 percent of eligible voters at the last presidential election -- or 800,000 -- to 1.5 percent, or 240,000 voters.

The association also proposed the abolition of the Referendum Review Committee and the lowering of the number of voters required to make a referendum valid from 50 percent to 25 percent.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said on Wednesday he hoped the legislature would amend the Referendum Law during the current session.

Chiang Liang-min (江良民), a volunteer at the association, called on Taiwanese to monitor how the DPP and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) handle the revisions to ensure they have the interests of the public at heart and prevent the matter being exploited for electoral purposes.

The DPP has proposed holding a referendum on whether to join the UN using the name "Taiwan," while the KMT has suggested another referendum on "rejoining" the body using the country's official name -- the Republic of China -- or any other "practical" title that would uphold the country's dignity.

Asked whether the association would consider proposing a referendum on the nation's national anthem and flag once the amendments pass the legislature, Iap said it would not take the initiative, but would support such action by other organizations or individuals.

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