The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday announced that it would hold a demonstration against amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) tomorrow on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2017 destroyed the “birdcage” by significantly lowering the thresholds for referendums to be initiated, petitioned and passed, only to replace it with an “iron cage” last month during an extraordinary legislative session, the caucus said at a news conference.
KMT caucus whip William Tseng (曾銘宗) slammed the changes, which stipulate that referendums may be held every two years and must be decoupled from national elections.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
The late DPP politician Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), who was instrumental in pushing the legislation on referendums, strongly advocated holding plebiscites with national elections, as did a score of incumbent DPP lawmakers when the party was in the opposition, including DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳), Tseng said.
However, their position seemed to have changed after the DPP administration took office in 2016, Tseng added.
Limiting the frequency of plebiscites to every two years is impractical and runs counter to the international trend, he said, citing Switzerland, which holds four referendums annually.
The rule would degrade referendums, rendering them unable to timely reflect public opinion on major issues, such as whether to allow imports of US pork containing ractopamine, he said.
Moreover, with referendums now separate from national elections, but the threshold for their passage unchanged — at least one-fourth of all eligible voters in the latest presidential election, or about 4.95 million “yes” votes — it would make future referendums much more difficult to pass, he said.
The KMT has initiated a referendum drive asking people whether the latest amendments to the act should be reconsidered, Tseng said, adding that if the party wins a legislative majority next year, it would reverse the amendments.
KMT Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) asked why former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), a veteran referendum reform advocate, has remained silent after the DPP last month pushed through the amendments.
The DPP believes that the 10 referendums held alongside last year’s local elections were a contributing factor behind its crushing defeat, Ko said, urging people to join the rally to condemn the DPP’s double standards.
KMT Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is curtailing people’s right to vote in referendums in order to “remove obstacles” in her re-election campaign.
The demonstration is scheduled to begin at 3pm.
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