Tue, May 26, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Civic groups protest failure of legislature to lower voting age

By Lii Wen  /  Staff reporter

Members of civic groups demonstrate outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday, criticizing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for attempting to “hijack” proposals by bundling issues together.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

A coalition of civic groups yesterday expressed rage over the legislature’s failure to reach a consensus over reforms that would see the voting age lowered to 18 and urged the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to stop attempting to “kidnap” the proposals to promote their agenda on absentee voting.

Despite a grueling 12-hour meeting on Wednesday last week, the legislature’s Constitutional Reform Committee adjourned without reaching any conclusions.

The KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party began to blame each other for the failure the following day.

Led by the Civic Alliance to Promote Constitutional Reform (CAPCR), representatives from more than a dozen civic groups rallied outside the legislature yesterday, saying that they were worried about the lack of progress on constitutional reform.

“We must remind the legislature that whether it is for the peace and stability of Taiwan, or for ensuring peaceful exchanges with China, we must consolidate the nation’s democracy and enshrine the protection of human rights in the Constitution,” CAPCR cochair Huang Sung-li (黃嵩立) said.

The Sunflower movement protests in March and April last year highlighted significant flaws in the nation’s political institutions, including an abuse of power by the executive branch and the failure of the legislature to adequately reflect the will of the people, Huang said.

In a statement, the alliance said that the KMT’s actions, which “clearly prioritized political calculations” over substantial reforms, displayed “contempt and mockery toward the will of the people.”

“[During the meeting on Wednesday last week,] KMT legislators took turns on the stage and made demands that a review of absentee voting must accompany the lowering of the voting age, and repeatedly obstructing the review with procedural tactics,” the alliance said.

With just seven more meetings on constitutional reform scheduled to take place before the end of the current legislative session, the alliance urged both major parties to prioritize reforms to the Constitution before partisan interests.

The alliance has proposed that constitutional reform be carried out in a two-part process — with first-phase reforms to be ratified through a referendum in January next year and a second phase leading up to 2018.

Reforms in the first phase should be focused on four aspects — lowering the voting age to 18, lowering the vote threshold for legislator-at-large seats to benefit minor parties, enshrining more thorough protection of human rights, and lowering the threshold for constitutional amendments.

They encouraged members of the public to telephone legislators to pressure them on the issue before June 16, which is the last day of the legislative session.

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