Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) yesterday initiated a proposal for a referendum calling for referendum voting to be held concurrently with national elections, with the aim of “returning power to the people.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has used its legislative majority to rule aggressively since coming to power in 2016 and prevented members of the public from expressing themselves on issues, Chiang told a news conference in Taipei.
“This situation demonstrates the importance of direct democracy,” he said.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
The outcomes of the 2018 referendum votes were not what the DPP had hoped for, so it decoupled referendums from presidential elections, changing the law so that referendum voting would only be held every two years, he said.
The DPP on June 17 last year amended the Referendum Act (公民投票法) so that referendum voting would be held every two years — but not on years when presidential elections are held — on the fourth Saturday of August.
“[The DPP] turned the ‘birdcage referendum’ into an ‘iron cage referendum.’ It has turned its back on all that it strove to achieve over more than 30 years, and has harmed people’s rights,” he said.
Referendum voting is a constitutionally protected right of Taiwanese and a way for people to directly exercise their rights, but restricting when referendum voting can occur restricts when people can exercise this right, he said.
Police reports of breaches of the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) have increased over the past few years, Chiang said, citing an example of an issue that might be of public concern.
In 2018, there were 21 cases, but last year, there were 151 cases and in the first five months of this year, there were 233 cases — but only a 25 percent conviction rate, he added.
“Is Taiwan becoming a police state?” he asked.
The value of democracy is the ability to question the government and a democratic government has a responsibility to respond to the public, not bring charges against them, he said.
“Otherwise, what has changed since the White Terror era of the past?” Chiang asked.
In the face of this threat, Chiang said that he felt compelled to propose a referendum calling for referendum voting to be held alongside presidential elections.
Holding referendum voting separately costs taxpayers about NT$850 million (US$28.8 million), but when held together, as in 2018, referendum voting only cost NT$145 million, he said.
“This is not just a KMT issue — it concerns all Taiwanese nationwide,” KMT Institute of Revolutionary Practice director Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said.
“The public must not sit idly by and watch as the DPP turns the nation into a one-party state,” Lo said, adding that the KMT would keep the DPP in check starting at the grassroots level.
If Chiang’s referendum is successful, referendum voting could be tied to by-elections as soon as 2022 and presidential elections as soon as 2024, Lo added.
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