The legislature’s Constitutional Amendment Committee yesterday reviewed draft proposals calling for a voting age of 18. Outside the Legislative Yuan complex in Taipei, social groups accused the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of hijacking the voting age amendment draft by tying it to such draft proposals as absentee voting and the legislature’s power to approve the premiership.
The committee’s second review yesterday fiercely debated proposals to lower the voting age.
Whether the voting age should be lowered to 18 was not the stumbling block, but the procedure for reviewing amendment proposals and whether the committee should first achieve resolutions over the issue blocked progress.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said the nature of the disputes showed that the KMT was not inclined toward lowering the voting age.
Meanwhile, high-school students and representatives from groups such as the Taiwan Alliance for Youth Rights, Taiwan Congress Watch and Taiwan Association for Human Rights gathered outside, accusing the KMT of taking voting age reform hostage and calling on DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) to “rescue the hostage.”
KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) insisted on May 9 that at the first stage of constitutional amendments, lowering the voting age, absentee voting and the legislature’s power to approve the premiership should be passed together.
“Take it or leave it,” Lai said to DPP opposition to the package.
The groups called Lai’s remarks “tantamount to an intimidation” and “in opposition to the essence of deliberation in democratic politics.”
While Lai was not present at the meeting yesterday, KMT lawmakers remained unwavering over their position that both a lowered voting age and absentee voting should be considered for “the expansion of citizens’ rights to political participation.”
The KMT voting age proposal was placed in a new article that includes absentee voting.
The DPP legislators said absentee voting represents “a method of voting” and should be regulated on a legal, rather than constitutional, level.
“We are not ‘hijacking’ the lowering of the voting age. There should be consistency in the attempt to secure citizens’ rights to political participation. Young people’s voting rights should be guaranteed, but so should the voting rights of the 1 million citizens who are not able to return home to vote,” KMT Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said. “And we are not making any changes to the rule that requires overseas citizens to return to Taiwan to vote.”
The KMT draft states that absentee voting details should be further legislated; another KMT absentee voting proposal includes all overseas citizens, except those in China.
Recent polls show that voters support the legislature’s power to approve the premiership, absentee voting and a lower electoral threshold for parties to enter the legislature more than they support a lower voting age, KMT Legislator Chiang Hui-chen (江惠貞) said.
“The amendment bills would — if passed by the legislature — be put to a referendum. It still remains a question of whether the referendum would be conducted in a way that requires voters to vote for or against the amendments en masse, so it is not appropriate for the DPP to accuse the KMT of ‘hijacking.’”
Meeting chairperson Lu intended to have all the related bills handed over to the general assembly as “bills reserved and awaiting further cross-party negotiation.”