Wed, Apr 30, 2014 - Page 3 News List

NUCLEAR POWER DEBATE: Majority wants no plebiscite threshold

POLL PRESSURE:The Taiwan Thinktank said judging by the results of a recent poll, the mainstream public opinion on amending the Referendum Act has been made clear

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

The majority of respondents in a public opinion poll released yesterday supported eliminating the threshold stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法), as well as a simple format for referendum questions to avoid hidden political agendas.

The Taiwan Thinktank found that 64.8 percent of the respondents agreed that the current high threshold — which requires the participation of 50 percent of eligible voters and with at least half of them casting a “yes” vote for the referendum to pass — should be eliminated, with only 22.4 percent not agreeing and 12.8 percent declining to answer, the think tank’s deputy executive director, Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), told a news conference.

Most of those polled, or 54.6 percent, also supported changing the referendum question from: “Do you support suspending construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant?” to: “Do you support or oppose the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant?”

The first question requires voters to answer “yes” or “no,” while the latter allows them to select “support” or “oppose,” Lai said.

Judging by these results, Lai said, the mainstream public opinion on amending the Referendum Act is clear.

As far as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) is concerned, 72.1 percent of those polled supported determining the resumption of construction with a referendum, while 65.6 percent said that they would support halting the construction and operation of the plant if a referendum were to be held tomorrow.

As New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) both support lowering the referendum threshold, Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a professor at Soochow University, said that the “post-Ma Ying-jeou era” scenario is clear.

“The future scenario is that the current Referendum Act, also known as the ‘birdcage referendum act,’ will be amended,” Hsu said, adding that Beijing and Washington should pay attention to the potential change.

Another question found that 59.9 percent of respondents did not support the government’s plan to force mandatory medical treatment upon former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), who staged a hunger strike against the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and has been hospitalized for a health check, with 23.3 percent supporting the government’s plan.

Opposition to the plan among self-proclaimed pan-green camp supporters and independent voters who participated in the poll exceeded 60 percent in both cases. A surprising result was that more pan-blue camp backers opposed the plan than supported it, 46.8 percent to 41.4 percent.

Pan-blue supporters’ responses to a question in another segment of the poll was also unusual, as 61.2 percent agreed that a supervision statute on cross-strait negotiations should be handled on a “country-to-country” basis, rather than “area-to-area.”

Yiong Cong-ziin (楊長鎮), director of the Tsai Ing-wen Foundation’s department of social development, said the results showed that at least some pan-blue backers began paying serious attention to the issue of national security.

“It seemed that they showed concern about the safety of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and the national security factor in cross-strait negotiations. And they were more willing than before to deliberate the issues beyond political-party affiliation,” Yiong said.

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