Sat, Jan 26, 2008 - Page 3 News List

KMT mulls plebiscite law change

By Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Protesters perform a skit outside the Central Election Commission in Taipei yesterday during a demonstration against a plan to hold two referendums in conjunction with the presidential election. Protesters called on voters to boycott the referendums.

PHOTO: CNA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said the party was considering whether to propose an amendment to the Referendum Law (公投法) to prohibit referendums from being held in conjunction with legislative and presidential elections.

Kuo made the remarks after the Central News Agency on Thusday quoted an anonymous legislator who attended a luncheon with People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) as saying that Soong said the KMT and the PFP were discussing the matter.

Kuo said the KMT was not against referendums, but opposes holding plebiscites in conjunction with the legislative and presidential polls.

The nation has been plagued for months by the dispute over whether referendums should be scheduled on the same days as the elections, she said.

"It would be a good thing if we could draw up clear rules of the game in this matter," she said.

At a separate setting, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) had proposed during a meeting with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) that the UN referendums should be held separately from the March 22 presidential election.

"No conclusion was reached on his suggestion during the meeting," Chen Chi-mai said.

Chen Chi-mai said the president had not yet decided whether to launch a third referendum to be put to a vote in conjunction with the other UN referendums.

He was referring to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) suggestion earlier this week to hold a referendum on joining the UN that is phrased such that both political camps approve, to prevent the referendums from failing and giving the international community the impression that the Taiwanese do not want to join the global body.

Since there is not enough time before the referendum date for members of the public to initiate a third plebiscite, the DPP suggested either the legislature or the president initiate the referendum application.

Article 17 of the Referendum Law states: "When the nation is exposed to an external threat that may affect its sovereignty, the president may, following a resolution by the Executive Yuan, place national security matters before the public for decision in a referendum," known as a "defensive referendum."

The legislature is also authorized to initiate referendums.

However, the Central Election Commission (CEC) is required to announce the content of a referendum 28 days before the vote. The legislature would have to present the application for a third UN referendum to the CEC by Feb. 23.

Although the DPP said it was willing to cooperate with the KMT on a referendum concerning UN membership, the DPP is opposed to the KMT caucus' proposal to pass a binding resolution that requires the government to "return to" or "join" the UN using the national title "Republic of China [ROC]" once the new legislature convenes.

The KMT said on Thursday this would resolve the UN referendum dispute.

According to a a senior KMT official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, such a resolution, if ratified by the new legislature, would reflect the public's willingness to join the international body, while making it unnecessary for the government to hold any referendum on UN membership.

DPP Department of Information and Culture Deputy Director Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) said yesterday that a legislative resolution could never take the place of a referendum.

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