Wed, Mar 23, 2016 - Page 3 News List

NPP tables amendments to the Referendum Act

FIXING ‘BIRDCAGE ACT’:The party seeks to lower thresholds it says make the act the preserve of big political parties, while safeguarding the rights of Aborigines

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Members of the New Power Party yesterday attend a post-caucus-meeting press conference in Taipei, proposing amendments to the Referendum Act.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

The New Power Party (NPP) caucus yesterday proposed amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) to lower referendum thresholds and the minimum voting age and switch to a plurality voting system.

At a post-caucus press conference, the NPP said it would modify the act to lower the signature threshold from 0.5 percent to 0.01 percent of the electorate to initiate a referendum proposal and lower the threshold to put a referendum proposal to a vote from 5 percent to 1.5 percent of the electorate.

“The Referendum Act is often described as a birdcage act, because its thresholds are set so high that it deprives people of their rights to referendum and makes referendums a tool of large parties capable of mobilizing a large number of voters,” NPP Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said.

The party also proposed lowering the minimum voting age from 20 to 18, establishing absentee voting and shifting to a plurality voting system from the simple majority system, under which a referendum proposal is passed when more than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots and when more than 50 percent of the ballots cast are in approval of the proposal.

While average voter turnout is about 70 percent in Taiwan, the so-called “double-50-percent thresholds” are advantageous to opponents of a referendum proposal, because their parties can vote down a proposal simply by persuading 20 percent of the public not to vote, making the act unfair, Hsu said.

The NPP plans to revise the act to include Aborigines’ rights to be informed of and approve Aboriginal affairs, as well as allowing people to vote on modifications to territory.

NPP Legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal said many laws were made without taking into consideration the rights of Aborigines, and because they are minorities, the government should not resort to public votes to decide Aboriginal-related affairs, which should be determined by Aborigines themselves.

The party proposed to abolish a provision mandating the establishment of the Information and Communication Security Technology Center as an administrative institution of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

NPP Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said that information security is national security, which should not be put in the hands of a low-level, semi-government body not invested with the power to investigate.

The center should not be formed as a research institute of the ministry, whose duties do not involve information security, but should be run as an independent, cyberpolice-like agency with investigative rights under the National Security Bureau or the Ministry of the Interior, Huang said.

National Cheng Kung University professor Li Jung-shian (李忠憲) said a semi-government security agency could actually harm information security, as the center’s employees are not government officials bound by government laws, meaning they might reveal sensitive data to China after they retire from the center.

“The hasty establishment of the center [as an entity run by the ministry] would only impede reformation, so the NPP proposes to abolish its establishment,” Huang said.

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