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December, 4, 2016

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Voter turnout threshold for recalls lowered

The Legislative Yuan on Tuesday passed an amendment to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, which lowers the minimum turnout threshold needed to recall an elected official, and permits campaigning during recall proceedings.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)- drafted amendment passed by a vote of 69 to 12. It allows future recall motions to pass with a simple majority, provided that voter turnout amounts to one fourth of the electorate.

Previously, the recall of an elected official required turnout from half of the electorate and the approval of more than half of those who voted.

The amendment also annuls Article 86 of the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, which prohibits campaigning during impeachment proceedings.

In the future, campaigning for and against a recall will be allowed during recall proceedings.

Television advertising is permitted between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and print media publications must include the name of an ad's sponsor.

The revisions also decreased the minimum number of signatories needed to propose a recall from 2 percent of the total electorate to 1 percent. The minimum number of follow-up signatories needed has been dropped from 13 percent to 10 percent.

Moreover, the time frame for gathering follow-up signatures has been extended. For the recall of legislators, city mayors and county magistrates, the duration has been stretched from 30 to 60 days.

For councilors and township mayors, the time frame to collect follow-up signatures has been extended from 20 to 40 days, and from 10 to 20 days for townsmen and borough chiefs.

The Appendectomy Project

The bill follows the 2014 "Appendectomy Project" (割闌尾計畫), which was launched by activists with the intention of recalling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers activists claimed were unfit to serve, including Tsai Cheng-yuan (蔡正元), Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) and Wu Yu-Sheng (吳育昇).

Out of the three cases, only the motion to recall Tsai garnered the requisite number of signatures, but it did not attract required voter turnout numbers.

The Taipei City Election Commission fined the team that launched the project NT$600,000 in March of this year on the grounds that they breached the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act by campaigning for Tsai's recall after the motion had received enough signatures.

The project's spokesman Lin Tzu-yi (林祖儀) said Tuesday, "this is a huge step forward for the country's democracy and this victory belongs to all Taiwanese citizens."

New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國) said, "this is a crucial step in the return of power to the people."

During the legislative session on Tuesday, the NPP argued against the DPP's draft amendment, insisting that a minimum turnout threshold should be annulled, allowing a simple majority without preconditions to pass a recall motion. However, the motion was rejected by DPP lawmakers.

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