Taipei, A legislative committee review of the government's proposed bill to amend the Referendum Act was adjourned Thursday, after the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) did everything it could to prevent the meeting going ahead.
Before the beginning of the Internal Administration Committee review meeting, KMT lawmakers sat on the convener's podium at around 5 a.m, while the lock of another conference room was sealed with super glue to prevent a change of venue.
In addition, when Chen Chao-chien acting chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), entered the meeting room at around 8:50 a.m., he was surrounded by KMT legislators and prevented from taking his seat.
Meanwhile, some KMT lawmakers brought cardboard cutouts of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) political figures into the meeting room.
KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang defended the party's tactics, saying that not a single word had been changed in the CEC's written report originally filed Wednesday, when its was resubmitted Thursday, adding that the report should be rewritten.
At Wednesday's committee meeting, Chiang accused the DPP of attempting to force through a Cabinet-proposed draft bill without holding public hearings.
The report submitted by the CEC contains only 860 words, an indication of its contempt for the Legislature and its desire to take back people's right to vote in referendums, the KMT said.
The KMT legislative caucus on Wednesday also demanded that the CEC withdraw the nomination of former Yunlin County Magistrate Lee Chin-yung as its chairman.
On Thursday, KMT lawmakers used cardboard cutouts of former DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung and late DPP lawmaker Chai Trong-rong who advocated for a lower threshold to bring a referendum question to a vote.
It was in part as a result of their efforts that the Legislature passed an amendment to the Referendum Act in 2017, lowering the threshold for the number of signatures on a petition in the first stage to 0.01 percent of the electorate, and 1.5 percent in the second stage.
That means only 1,879 signatures are required in the first stage of a referendum drive and 281,745 in the second stage, based on an electorate of 18,782,991 in the 2016 presidential election.
According to the revised law, a referendum vote is declared valid if 25 percent of the electorate votes and a majority is in favor of the petition.
This was the second day KMT lawmakers have sought to prevent the review meeting proceeding after legislators occupied the podium and blocked Chen from attending the committee meeting the previous day.
A total of 27 draft bills to amend the Act introduced by the Executive Yuan and lawmakers across party lines, including the DPP, KMT, New Power Party and People First Party, were referred to the committee for review.
The Cabinet-proposed draft bill stipulates that a referendum does not have to be held on the same day as a national election and that those signing a petition for a referendum proposal must provide a photocopy of their national identification card. It also prohibits referendum questions concerning human rights and extends the preparation period for referendums from a minimum of one month to three months.
The draft bill also requires that referendum initiators provide a photocopy of their national ID card and their phone number.
The Cabinet-introduced proposal is also intended to address problems that arose during the local government elections in November last year, when 10 referendums were held concurrently, leading to long lines of people waiting to cast their ballots at voting stations and a delayed ballot count.
Also Thursday, opposition KMT lawmaker Lin Li-chan said that it is technically possible to prevent the use of bogus signatures including those from the deceased and accused the DPP of trying to amend the law because of its huge election losses.
The DPP suffered a heavy defeat in the Nov. 24 local elections held alongside 10 referendums, the results of which indicated voters strongly disapprove of government policies, according to Lin.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi claimed that more than 100,000 fake signatures were collected for referendums proposed by the KMT during last year's local elections.
However, the KMT has also proposed four draft amendments to the Act, Lee said, adding that all the proposals should be subject to legislative committee review.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel