The pan-blue parties dominated the legislative showdown on the Referendum Law (公民投票法) yesterday, as the legislature acted on its promise to complete a referendum law by the end of this month. \nCashing in on their numerical edge in the 223-seat legislature, opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) lawmakers passed a law that did not fulfill the Cabinet's hopes. \nThe pan-blue camp vetoed most of the pan-green parties' ideas, denying the Cabinet the power to hold advisory referendums, and excluding the issues of sovereignty, territory, and a proposed new constitution from the referendum process. \nThe new law denies the government the right to hold advisory referendums to gauge public opinion. \nGovernment officials would face legal punishment for violations of the referendum law. \nThe opposition-controlled legislature excluded from the referendum process the pan-green camp's ideas for allowing referendums on altering the country's name, flag, anthem and territory. \nThis came despite an announcement by KMT whip Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) just before yesterday's showdown. \nLee had claimed that "KMT caucus members decided to withdraw the ban because Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) recently declared the existence of the Republic of China. The KMT caucus members thought that we should safeguard the people's right to make proposals in the future when they feel that Taiwan needs to think about a change." \nThe new law restricts citizens' referendum rights on the nation's major policies and on constitutional amendments. \nThe KMT and PFP lawmakers held that the country's overhaul of the Constitution should be carried out only in accordance with the regular procedure of the Legislative Yuan. \nThe legislature resolved in the new law that the Executive Yuan would be in charge of nationwide referendums, while regional referendums would be managed by local governments. \nA Referendum Review Committee (公投審議委員會) would be formed to examine proposed topics for referendums and to make rules for implementing referendums after their approval. \nThe referendum committee, in addition to the chairman of the Central Election Committee (CEC), would be comprised of 20 commissioners recommended by the various political parties, with seats apportioned according to the parties' representation in the legislature. \nThe commissioners would have to be confirmed by the president. \nA referendum would take place within six months after an announcement by the authorities, according to the provisions of the new law. \nLawmakers concluded that referendums could be held on the same date as national elections, including the presidential election and those for county commissioners and mayors. \nThe pan-blue parties decided to be open to a defensive referendum, which offers the president the power to initiate a special referendum on changing the country's sovereignty when the country faces external threats to its security. \nA referendum item, after being approved or rejected by the electorate, could not be presented for another referendum for three years from the date that the CEC released the referendum result. \nReferendum items on major infrastructure policy issues could not be reintroduced within eight years, according to the new law. \nThe vote upset Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawma-kers and their pan-green allies in the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU). \nThe DPP caucus said that the legislature had passed a referendum law that restricts people from practicing their referendum power. \n"The DPP protests this law," said DPP whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘). "This Referendum Law would not only ban people from voting to show their wish to change the country's sovereignty, but would also kill the hope of legislative reforms accomplished through the votes of the people." \nMembers of the TSU caucus also decried the passage of the law. \nTSU Legislator Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) said that "the decision to form a Referendum Review Committee, and to provide for legislative control of the referendum process, turns lawmakers into the supreme rulers of the referendum process in this country."
PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES
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