Fri, Oct 14, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Penghu referendum ballot misleading: critics

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yu-chin, center, and other anti-gambling advocates express their opposition to the legalization of casinos in Penghu County, holding placards that read “Anti-gambling” and “Protect Penghu,” at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Misleading ballot wording could sway the result of Penghu’s referendum tomorrow on legalizing casinos, anti-gambling advocates told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday, promising to pursue legal action to nullify the results if the referendum passes.

Posing with their arms crossed in the shape of an “X” to symbolize a “no” vote in the referendum, environmental advocates and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators said they were concerned that the “shortened title” of the referendum — “Do you agree to establishing special tourism zones?” — would confuse voters.

The group said they were surprised when they saw the ballot for the first time on Wednesday, with the title listed directly above the box where voting stamps are placed, while the word “casino” is only mentioned in the full referendum question further down the page.

Previous referendums on Penghu and Matsu were simply titled a “referendum on gambling.”

“Agreeing to establishing ‘special tourism zones’ and ‘casinos’ are two fundamentally different things,” DPP Legislator Wu Yu-chin (吳玉琴) said.

The local election commission should have rejected the title under the Referendum Act (公民投票法), which bans content that might cause voters to misunderstand the plebiscite’s purpose, Wu said.

“This referendum would not be taking place if it were not for plans to set up casinos — that is the entire purpose of the referendum authorized under the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例). Those who proposed holding a referendum do not have a right to formulate it in a way that is misleading,” Wu added.

Penghu’s election commission on Wednesday said it had no authority to ask the groups who initiated the referendum to change the wording.

Wu said anti-gambling advocates would file a lawsuit to nullify the referendum if it passes, based on provisions of the Referendum Act, which allows for nullification in the event of illegal behavior by the local election commission or others that is sufficient to influence referendum results.

The news conference was followed immediately by a separate press conference, which saw DPP officials and legislators stand with young Penghu residents to urge young voters to return home to vote against legalizing gambling.

DPP Legislator Yang Yao (楊曜) of Penghu was notably absent, with Wu stating he had not been invited to avoid “putting him in a tough spot.”

Penghu County Commissioner Chen Kuang-fu (陳光復) of the DPP, who has said he would maintain a neutral stance throughout the referendum process, drew criticism yesterday from some DPP legislators.

“Chen Kuang-fu has been extremely irresponsible, because he was the one who prodded a hornet’s nest, only to demand that the party central clean up the mess,” DPP Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said, attributing the holding of the referendum to the commissioner’s “inexperience” and passivity.

Voting is to take place tomorrow and can pass by a simple majority regardless of turnout under special provisions of the Offshore Islands Development Act.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is also the DPP chairperson, on Wednesday reiterated the party’s opposition to the opening of casinos in Penghu County.

DPP spokesman Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) quoted Tsai as telling a DPP Central Standing Committee meeting that the party’s position has not changed, and that Penghu should focus on developing tourism rather than rely on gambling for local development.

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