President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could suspend construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant by a direct presidential order and is risking paying the political price if the result of a government-proposed referendum violates mainstream public opinion, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavyweights said yesterday.
Speaking on the sidelines of a commemoration march marking the 66th anniversary of the 228 Massacre, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) both said that Ma should respect the wishes of the public and suspend the controversial construction project without putting it to a referendum.
“The nuclear power plant is a major project that has always gone against public opinion and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) never supported the idea of holding a referendum until it was surprised by society’s strong anti-nuclear awareness,” Su said.
The referendum proposal is an obvious KMT trick to deceive the people, Su said, because it is not likely that more than 9 million voters would be mobilized to meet the high turnout threshold as required by the Referendum Act (公民投票法).
“The Ma administration should stop playing tricks,” Su said.
Tsai expressed the same view, saying that an immediate suspension of the construction is mainstream public opinion.
If the Ma administration is serious about the referendum, it should make the referendum question: “Do you support the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant?” since that is the government’s policy, Tsai said.
The government’s intention to make the question: “Do you support suspending the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant?” — the DPP’s position — is an “obvious manipulation” of the referendum, Tsai added.
“Everyone understands very well what the government is thinking and trying to do,” Tsai said.
“If the referendum fails to pass the threshold of half of the electorate, but a majority of those who vote support the suspension, Ma will have to pay a high price for his stubbornness,” Tsai said.
Tsai said she was not surprised that many celebrities, artists and workers in cultural industries had joined the anti-nuclear cause, because “anyone who loves this land and feels responsible for future generations would probably make the same decision.”
Separately yesterday, former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), who initiated a campaign for a referendum on the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant 20 years ago, criticized the government’s proposed “joke” referendum and called on the Ma administration to halt the project immediately.
“This is a joke, that the government is proposing to hold a referendum under the current Referendum Act, because the current version of the law is intended to prevent referendums from succeeding, making the outcome meaningless,” Lin said on the sidelines of a memorial service for his mother and twin daughters, who were murdered 33 years ago.
“It’s obvious that the public are no longer reluctant to express their fears, doubts and anxieties about nuclear energy, so what the government should do is to stop construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant immediately, not hold a referendum on whether the construction should continue,” he said.
According to the Referendum Act, 50 percent of the number of eligible voters in the country, which is about 9 million, must vote for a referendum to be valid, and of those who voted, at least 50 percent, about 4.5 million, must vote “yes” to the question asked for the referendum to be passed.
Since the act was introduced in 2003, all six nationwide referendums have failed due to an insufficient number of voters.
Asked about his campaign for a referendum on the power plant, Lin said that a referendum should be a channel through which the public can express a view that is different to that of the government.
“We stopped campaigning for a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in 2003 when the Referendum Act was adopted by the legislature because we believe that the law is a twisted one, it’s a referendum law enacted to block referendums,” Lin said. “Since then, we’ve been campaigning to amend the Referendum Act instead.”