The People Rule Foundation, led by Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), is to stage a hunger strike against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), to which he once belonged and led as chairman, for what the foundation said is its deliberate delay in amending the Referendum Act (公民投票法).
The foundation yesterday said that it would launch a 16-day hunger strike in front of the DPP’s headquarters in Taipei starting on Wednesday next week, with Lin and other participants, including foundation president Chen Lih-kuei (陳麗貴) and executive director Liu Ming-shin (劉明新), taking turns fasting.
The Referendum Act was approved in 2003 by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislature, with help from its People First Party allies.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
The act limits the citizens’ political rights by having high thresholds for proposing and initiating a referendum, voter turnout requirements and a referendum review commission, which in effect precludes the possibility of a successful referendum, foundation member Chen Hen-hsin (陳恆信) said, adding that the six referendums held since 2003 were all rejected because of low voter turnouts.
The DPP, which won a legislative majority in the elections in January last year, has shown little commitment to finalizing a draft amendment to the act even though the party has always been severely critical of it, the foundation said.
The legislature’s Internal Administration Committee in December last year passed an amendment to lower the age requirement for referendum voters from 20 to 18, lower the signature threshold to initiate a referendum proposal from 0.5 percent to 0.01 percent of the electorate and lower the threshold to put a referendum proposal to the vote from 5 percent to 1.5 percent of the electorate.
Under the proposed amendment, a referendum outcome would be considered passed with a simple majority where more than one-quarter of the electorate submit a valid vote, as opposed to the current law, which requires a 50 percent voter turnout and more than half of the valid votes being votes of approval.
The amendment is on hold in the legislature.
The foundation wants the DPP to push the amendment through the legislature by May 20, the one-year anniversary of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) taking office.
The foundation said the amendment was “acceptable,” although it had called for canceling the voter turnout requirement for qualifying a referendum outcome as well as allowing government agencies to launch a referendum proposal.
“The DPP has kept making excuses [about the delay]. It is the third legislative session [since the DPP became the majority party], but the party has kept delaying the legislation. People believing in democracy have felt that the DPP does not have the will to ensure the legislation’s passage,” Chen Heng-shin said.
DPP caucus chief executive Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) said it was unlikely the amendment could be passed by May 20 as the legislature has to review pension reform proposals and the Cabinet’s Forward-Looking Infrastructure Program budgets.
Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said Taiwan is a democratic nation where referendums are an unquestionable right.
“Draft amendments to the Referendum Act (公民投票法) have been listed by the Democratic Progressive Party caucus as one of its priorities and are being deliberated in this legislative session. The Presidential Office respects the legislature’s legislative schedule,” Huang said.
Lin, a long-time pro-democracy campaigner, joined the DPP in 1994 and was elected its chairman in 1998.
On Jan. 24, 2006, he stunned Taiwan by issuing a public letter announcing he was quitting the DPP because he was upset by the nation’s deepening political divide.
In recent years, Lin has been an anti-nuclear campaigner.
Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu and staff writer
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