The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday played down a proposed initiative to combine an anti-nuclear referendum with local elections next year, as Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) reiterated that the initiative was not politically motivated.
Su was responding to criticism of a comment he made on Monday, in which he recommended combining the proposed referendum, which aims to stop the construction and operation of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), with the local elections.
Environmental groups and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have blasted the DPP for trying to use the initiative for political gains.
“Nuclear-free Homeland has been the DPP’s ally for three decades. We insist that the loading of fuel rods and construction of the plant be suspended,” Su said after the party’s weekly Central Standing Committee meeting yesterday afternoon.
“We would consult with environmental groups about the best time to submit and hold the proposal. The ultimate goal is to have a referendum. We have never looked at this [issue] from the perspective of election gains,” Su said.
DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said yesterday morning that the party “has never set any timetable for the referendum.”
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who initiated the referendum proposal, defended Su in a press release issued last night, saying that the idea of combining the referendum and local elections was hers and had been endorsed by several environmental groups.
“[The initiative] was not Chairman Su’s personal idea,” Lu said.
As the referendum is expected to be held “about three or four months before the local elections next year, judging by the current speed of the entire process,” Lu said, she believed combining the two would save time and money for the government and the people.
Other DPP heavyweights also weighed in on the controversial initiative yesterday, with former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) saying that holding the referendum late next year would be “too late to stop the loading of fuel rods and testing [the power plant’s] operation.”
Former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Yu Shyi-kun shared the view that stopping the testing operation is the most important issue.
Yu said he hoped the referendum could be held “as soon as possible.”