Sat, Nov 03, 2007 - Page 3 News List

US institute voices support for UN referendum plan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan should proceed with a referendum on UN membership despite US opposition if Taiwanese believe it is in their best interests, a leading authority on the initiative and referendum process said in Taipei yesterday.

"I do believe [holding the UN referendum] is a right thing for Taiwan to do ... Even though the US government opposes it because of its impact on the relationship between Washington and Beijing, every country should choose on its own," Dane Waters, founder and chairman of the Initiative & Referendum Institute-US, said at a press conference organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy .

"I don't think it is due responsibility of a nation to dictate to a true democracy how it operates and how a referendum is held just because the referendum is unsettling to it," Waters said.

Waters said the UN referendum is a very "critical step" in letting the international community know how Taiwanese feel about membership in the UN.

But whether or not the referendum represents a tangible step depends on how the government handles the result and how it is perceived by the international community, he said.

In addition to Waters, Bruno Kaufmann, the president of IRI-Europe and a member of IRI-Asia International Steering Committee (ISC), as well as representatives of the seven member countries of IRI-Asia, gathered in Taipei yesterday for the IRI-Asia ISC meeting.

The press conference yesterday was held to launch the Chinese edition of IRI's Guidebook to Direct Democracy.

The book describes in detail how direct lawmaking by the voters works in Switzerland and beyond, through initiative and referendum, and shows other places in the world where it is taking root.

Kaufmann said the purpose of the book was to educate the public about the referendum process by giving examples from Switzerland, which offers the most comprehensive experience of direct democracy and shows how referendums influence everyday life.

TFD president Lin Wen-cheng (林文程) told the press conference that the publication would contribute to spreading the idea of direct democracy to people in China.

However, Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), chairman of IRI-Asia ISC, voiced his doubts over the controversy surrounding the UN referendum plan. He said that the dispute between the pan-green camp and the pan-blue camp on the referendum issue and how it should be conducted had a negative impact on democracy.

In response, Waters said it's appropriate for parties to use referendums as an opportunity to bring issues to the forefront and encourage voters to discuss the issue.

Members of the IRI also met Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) later yesterday. Waters said he expected about 10 million voters to join the UN referendum ballot and vote in favor of it.

The figure is equivalent to 68 percent of the voter turnout in the 2004 presidential election.

Water said he was surprised that 2.25 million people had signed to back the referendum bid, adding that his estimation was made based on his observation experience in the US.

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