Activists urge Referendum Act revision, plant construction halt
CNATAIPEI--The government should suspend the construction of a controversial nuclear power plant and revise the Referendum Act before putting the project to a referendum, environmental groups urged Tuesday.
February 27, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Work on the country's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted immediately to avoid wasting resources, about a dozen grassroots foundations said during a protest in front of the Legislative Yuan.
“The ruling party is simply trying to shirk responsibility by resorting to a referendum,” said Tsui Su-hsin, secretary-general of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance (GCAA).
Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Monday that the government was willing to let the people decide the fate of the controversial project by holding a referendum, in July or August at the earliest.
He did not specify the question to be put to voters, but the version proposed by legislators of the ruling Kuomintang would ask voters if they are in favor of stopping construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Such phrasing would almost ensure that the referendum would not be passed and work at the facility would continue because of the high thresholds required for referendums Taiwan, Tsui said.
Under the country's Referendum Act, a referendum can only be passed if half of all eligible voters cast ballots and more than half of the ballots cast support the measure.
The proposal is vetoed if the number of voters who cast ballots does not reach the threshold or the measure does not get majority support.
Taiwan has put six national referendum questions to voters since the Referendum Act was passed, and all fell short of the 50 percent participation threshold despite being held in conjunction with national elections in 2004 and 2008.
Tsui said that because civic groups such as the GCAA, Raging Citizens Act Now and Green Party Taiwan lack resources to inform the public of the downsides of nuclear power, the proposed referendum would only put opposition voices at a disadvantage.
To make the debate a fair game, she said, the high threshold for voter participation called for in the Referendum Act should be lowered.
The groups emphasized that they were not in favor of any referendum on the issue, proposed by either the government or the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, as long as the current referendum rules remained in place.
Responding to the criticism, Jiang argued Tuesday that the participation threshold for referendums should not be lowered because such votes only supplement the existing system of representative democracy, in which legislators make decisions on behalf of the public through elections.
A high threshold is necessary because only highly controversial issues should go through such a process, he said.