TSU calls for referendum reform

‘BIRDCAGE’ ACT::The party’s call for an amendment and the abolition of the Referendum Review Committee followed a ruling in its favor by the Supreme Administrative Court

By Jake Chung  /  Staff Writer, with CNA

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 - Page 3

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) yesterday called for the Legislative Yuan to immediately amend the Referendum Act (公民投票法) and abolish the Referendum Review Committee.

Dissatisfied with the committee’s move to veto his referendum application on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) on June 4 last year, TSU chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) filed an administrative lawsuit in the Taipei High Administrative Court.

The Referendum Act is dubbed the “birdcage” referendum act due to the unusually high eligibility threshold needed to even begin an application for a referendum, making it difficult for the public to propose legislation or amend the Constitution through a referendum.

According to current regulations, more than 80,000 signatures are required to propose a referendum, 870,000 are required to hold one and more than half the electorate must vote, with half of those voting supporting the referendum for it to pass.

After the Administrative Court dismissed his lawsuit, Huang appealed the ruling with the Supreme Administrative Court, which overruled the Taipei High Administrative Court on Thursday and ruled that the committee must review the application.

The court said the rejection of the proposed referendum on the grounds that any proposal on important policies must include a negative description was not stipulated in sub-paragraph 3 in Article 31 of the Referendum Act.

Huang said the decision by the Executive Yuan’s Referendum Review Committee to reject his application deprived people of their right to a referendum and caused the ECFA to be signed without a basis of public support.

The legitimacy of the accord would be determined only after a referendum over the ECFA was held, and the cross-strait investment accord being negotiated should also be suspended immediately, Huang said yesterday.

It has been two years now since the ECFA was signed, but Taiwan’s economy has not only failed to improve, it is trending toward recession, Huang said, adding that pushing for a referendum on the ECFA now could enable people to examine what the ECFA has done for Taiwan, and whether people agree with the government that the ECFA is good for Taiwan.

The illegal actions by the committee have denied people their say on the ECFA even two years after it was signed, Huang said.

“Who can pay the price for such damage to the rights of the people and the loss of the country?” Huang said, adding that the 21 members on the committee should immediately resign to apologize.

Huang said the TSU would be focusing all its efforts on the ECFA referendum and it would seek to gather the 860,000 signatures needed for a second application, adding that the TSU invites all pro-localization organizations and the Democratic Progressive Party to aid in the effort.