Sun, Apr 12, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Pressure mounts over Referendum Act

‘STATUS QUO’:Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun said that retaining the double-50 percent thresholds remains the Executive Yuan’s position on the issue

By Lee Hsin-fang  /  Staff reporter

Pressure from civic groups over democratic reform has led to speculation that the government will lower referendum and recall thresholds.

Activist groups have been calling for amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) and the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法), which they say have statutory thresholds too high for referendums and recalls to be feasible.

Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) is said to have convened a task force to review and assess possible amendments to the Referendum Act.

While the Executive Yuan has continued to endorse the turnout threshold of 50 percent of eligible voters, the voting age for referendums was lowered from 20 to 18 and is expected to be approved in the near future, while a Ministry of the Interior official said a downward adjustment to the threshold for proposing a referendum is expected.

A source yesterday said that it is likely that administration departments would lower the thresholds for both voter turnout and signatures in the near future.

The Referendum Act sets the threshold for the proposal of a referendum at 0.5 percent of voters in the previous presidential election and, after the proposal is reviewed, the second stage needs to gather signatures from 5 percent of voters for a referendum to be set up.

Activists are calling for a lower proposal threshold of 0.01 percent of total voters in the previous presidential election and a lowering of the signature threshold to 1.5 percent, while the rule requiring 50 percent of eligible voters to participate would become a simple majority.

The Executive Yuan has been urged to table its proposals.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said that keeping the double-50 percent thresholds remains the Executive Yuan’s position on the issue, meaning a referendum is passed only when two conditions are met: 50 percent voter turnout and yes votes make up more than 50 percent of the valid ballots.

Sun said that Chien has convened agencies, including the Ministry of the Interior, the Central Election Committee and the Executive Yuan’s Law and Regulation Committee to form a task force, to review and mull possible amendments.

Since the Executive Yuan is responsible for maintaining the Referendum Act, it has to justify its stance on issues related to it, Sun said.

The ministry is to hold a public hearing on amendments to the Referendum Act later this month, the ministry official said.

The ministry is to collect and organize opinions and see whether a consensus could be reached, the official said.

However, with the activist groups calling for the abolition of the 13-member Referendum Review Committee, which has the authority to reject a referendum proposal, among other proposals, conflicting viewpoints are expected to be seen between the ruling and the opposition parties.

The official said a reason to keep the existing thresholds is to make sure the number of valid votes required for a referendum to pass does not become too low.

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