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September 26, 2017

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Kaohsiung class size referendum fails

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan -- A referendum, held in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, on cutting elementary and junior high school class sizes to 25 from 35 students yesterday failed to be passed, due to less than 10 percent of citizens casting ballots, according to the Kaohsiung Election Commission.

The referendum, initiated two years ago by the Kaohsiung Teachers' Association, marked the first city-wide referendum ever staged in Taiwan since the amendment of the nation's Referendum Act. Although the said association has been holding large-scale campaigns in recent weeks to drum up support for the measure, the referendum still had a long way to reach the threshold of being accepted—a simple majority and a participation of more than 50 percent of local voters.

At the moment, Kaohsiung city has a total of 1.14 million qualified voters. For the referendum to be passed, at least 570,000 citizens should cast their ballots and half of them should vote for the bill.

Nevertheless, there were only 62,068 ballots in the election, less than 10 percent of the total number of qualified voters, although up to 91.21 percent of the ballots cast supported the referendum.

A spokesman of the Kaohsiung Teachers' Association said that they will not let up on efforts to push the referendum, and will persuade Kaohsiung city councilors to support the bill.

One day earlier, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu voiced her support for holding the referendum.

Given that the issue involves the allocation of the city's education resources, it would be inappropriate for her to voice her position in public, she stressed.

Yet, many city officials have been arguing against it, pointing out that the municipal government will have to shell out an additional NT$32 million per year for extra teaching staff and classrooms if the referendum is passed.

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