Sun, Mar 03, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Nuclear Power Debate: Lawmakers preparing for nuclear vote

DECISION TIME:The DPP hopes to change rules it says mean referendums are likely to fail, while the party’s chairman urged Taiwanese to stand up for a non-nuclear future

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Lawmakers are engaged in a number of actions in preparation for a referendum on the highly controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), which is likely to be held in the summer.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) has scheduled a negotiation meeting on Tuesday to discuss an amendment to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), which calls for an amendment to the threshold required for a referendum’s proposal to be passed.

The amendment seeks to change rules that require turnout of at least half of the electorate for a national referendum to be valid, with an absolute majority of 51 percent of votes required for a proposal to be approved.

These rules have been criticized by the DPP and a number of civic groups as leading to “bird cage” referendums, meaning that the law’s excessively high threshold means that referendums are designed to fail.

Yeh’s amendment, supported by the DPP, proposes reducing the turnout requirement, meaning that referendum results would be more likely to be decided by majority voting.

Under Yeh’s proposal, for a referendum to pass, the “yes” votes must outnumber the “no” votes and they must account for at least one-fourth of the electorate. A referendum would fail if less than one-fourth of eligible voters vote in favor of the proposal, or if the “no” votes exceed the “yes” votes.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Ling Hung-chih (林鴻池) said his party was willing to discuss the issue with the opposition, but was opposed to reducing current thresholds.

The KMT plans to submit its proposal for a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to the legislature this week, which, if approved, would lead to a referendum within six months.

Lin said that a proposal is being drafted by the party’s Policy Committee to ask people: “Do you support halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant?”

The KMT has said that the proposal will not be submitted under the name of the caucus or caucus whips, apparently in order to avoid the awkwardness that the KMT caucus and the government might face in arguing different cases during referendum debates.

KMT legislative caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) on Friday suggested that the proposal be submitted by KMT lawmakers who were of the view that construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted and it should not become operational.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), the most vocal opponent of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in the party, disagreed with Lai’s proposal and said it seemed “odd” that referendum debates could see lawmakers from the ruling party face off against the government.

If the referendum question was to be phrased in such a way as to ask people if they support halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, then the referendum proposal should be submitted by either the DPP or by anti-nuclear groups, Ting said.

Meanwhile, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said his party will confront the government face-to-face on the issue even though the KMT government is employing a variety of tactics to continue with its nuclear policy by manipulation of the proposed referendum.

Su added that the anti-nuclear campaign is not a fight between political parties, but one of mothers for their children and Taiwanese for a safe, non-nuclear homeland.

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