Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Agencies discuss separating elections and referendums

By Lee Hsin-fang and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka speaks at news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei in an undated photograph.

Photo: Lee Hsin-fang, Taipei Times

The Cabinet yesterday held a cross-agency meeting to discuss amendments that would allow nationwide referendums to be held separately from national elections.

The meeting was chaired by Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) to discuss draft amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), which have been listed as a priority bill for the current legislative session.

The proposed changes come in the wake of complaints during the referendums held alongside the local elections on Nov. 24 last year, with long lines forming at the polling stations and the vote going into overtime.

Representatives from the Cabinet, the Central Election Commission, the Ministry of Justice, the National Communications Commission and local governments attended the meeting, Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said.

Participants reached a consensus on decoupling plebiscites from elections, extending the preparation time and banning campaigns on voting day.

The Central Election Commission is considering extending the preparatory period for a referendum from a minimum of one month to at least three months, Vice Chairman Chen Chao-chien (陳朝建) said.

To make referendums more flexible, Article 23 of the act, which states: “If there is a national election within the period, the referendum shall be held on the same day as the national election,” would be changed, with the word “shall” being replaced with “may,” Chen said.

Other issues that are to be discussed at the next meeting include cutting the length of referendum questions and introducing abbreviated titles for referendums, Chen said.

Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) is to chair public meetings where people may voice their opinions on more contentious issues, such as a clause that says no referendum can be held on human rights-related issues, Chen said.

Lo instructed participants to provide documented opinions for the commission before March 10 and set the second meeting for later next month, Kolas said.

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