The legislature is set to pass amendments to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公務人員選舉罷免法) that would lower the recall thresholds and to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) that would do away with the need to apply for a permit or to inform authorities before staging demonstrations.
The two bills, as well as a proposed amendment to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), were all sent for review by the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee before President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office on May 20, but committee coconvener Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that due to the opposition of civic groups to the proposed Referendum Act revisions, the other two amendments would be dealt with first.
Following the recommendations of the review committee and cross-caucus negotiations, the amendments would see the recall threshold for supporters of a recall lowered from 2 percent to 1 percent of total voters in an electoral district, while the signature threshold would be lowered from 13 percent to 10 percent.
The time period for the collection of signatures for recalls for all levels of elected representative would be doubled; the threshold for a recall to be considered successful would be changed from requiring “double halves” — the turnout must be more than half of the total number of voters in the electoral district and the number voting for a recall has to exceed half of the valid ballots — to a turnout of a quarter of the number of voters and a simple majority, while the clause that forbids campaigning for a recall would be scrapped.
Under the amendments, the Assembly and Parade Act would be renamed the assembly and parade protection act, the requirement for applying for a permit to stage a demonstration would be changed to allow protesters to voluntarily give authorities prior notice and all the penalties listed in the existing act would be expunged.
The 300m restricted zone around the Presidential Office Building in Taipei would be preserved, but those around international airports, ports and military bases would be cut from 300m to 100m, and those for the presidential and vice presidential residences would be reduced to 50m. The restricted zone around the Executive Yuan, the Examination Yuan, courts and embassies would be cut to 30m. A clause imposing a restricted zone of 30m around hospitals would be added.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said the rights of demonstrators should be protected, but at the same time protesters must take some responsibility to ensure that protests are peaceful and are not hijacked by extremists who want to cause disruption.
While the recall thresholds have been unreasonably high, lowering them should still retain reasonable thresholds, he added.
Denis Chen (陳致豪), president of the Taichung-based advocacy group Total Recall, said he supports the lowering of the recall thresholds, but if the quarter of voters threshold remains it would still be difficult for any recall to succeed.
He called for the requirement to be changed to a simple majority.
Appendectomy Project spokesman Lin Zu-yi (林祖儀) said the requirements on signature collections during the initial phase of a recall process already constitutes a high hurdle.
The project only received 50 to 100 signatures per day during its attempted recall of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers in 2014, he said, adding that if the group had not set up stands to solicit signatures outside polling stations on the day of the nine-in-one elections in late 2014, it would have been difficult for them to collect enough signatures.
Lin said that the lowered thresholds in the amended act would remain difficult to achieve.
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