Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday said he and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had never opposed referendum bids launched in accordance with the law and denied that the government had changed its stance on holding referendums.
Wu made the remarks in the wake of a statement by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) on Saturday that Ma and the KMT would not object should the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) insist on pursuing a referendum on the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China after the legislature completes its review of the proposed cross-strait trade pact.
Given that Ma has said on numerous occasions that a referendum on an ECFA was unnecessary because the proposed agreement would not touch on political issues, King’s comments were perceived by some as a change of stance on the issue of an ECFA referendum by the Ma administration.
Dismissing such speculation, Wu yesterday said the government’s stance had not changed, as it has always supported lawful referendums.
Wu’s comments were called into question by DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday.
Tsai said the KMT had on previous occassions said it would not oppose a referendum, only to block the DPP’s attempt to hold one later by using administrative means.
She was referring to the DPP’s petition drive last year for a referendum on the ECFA issue.
The DPP wanted a referendum asking: “Do you agree that the government should put the ECFA that Taiwan plans to sign with China to a referendum?”
The petition was rebuffed by the Executive Yuan’s Referendum Review Committee despite passing an initial review by the Central Election Commission. The committee turned down the petition on the grounds that it was based on a hypothetical situation and therefore did not meet the criteria set down in the Referendum Act (公民投票法).
“If they truly recognize the importance of a referendum, they should give their support to it,” Tsai said, adding that if this were the case, KMT and DPP lawmakers could come together and support a referendum proposal in the legislature.
The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) is currently petitioning for a referendum on the ECFA, with the backing of the DPP.
“The response we have received from the public and grassroots movements has been overwhelming,” TSU Associate Director Chou Ni-an (周倪安) said yesterday. “I think the government recognizes this and that is why all of a sudden the premier says the administration doesn’t oppose a referendum being held.”
Organizers expect to be able to deliver almost 200,000 signatures to the Referendum Review Committee later this week, more than double the 86,000 signatures needed to pass a first review.
The referendum would ask voters whether they wanted the government to sign any type of economic agreement with China, such as “President Ma Ying-jeou’s ECFA proposal.”
“The government has finally realized that there is a tide of popular support for putting this issue to the ballot box. After all, if Penghu County residents can vote on whether they want casinos, people nationwide should have a say on whether they support this controversial measure,” Chou said.
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