Referendum revision bill sneaks through to second reading

Taipei, The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus has sent a controversial bill that restricts when national referendums can be held directly to the full Legislature while opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers were holding a press conference.

The bill, proposed by DPP Legislator Chiang Chieh-an was forwarded to a second reading without being subject to committee review.

The move was made while KMT lawmakers were away from the meeting hall holding a press conference on the same-sex marriage law, which was still under deliberation at that time.

Since the bill met no objection, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan announced that it would go to second reading, which is one step away from final enactment.

The bill is controversial because it would only allow referendums to be held every two years on the fourth Saturday of August beginning in 2021, meaning they could not be held in conjunction with nationwide elections, when referendums are usually held.

A longtime supporter of direct democracy, the DPP actually passed a bill in the Legislature in December 2017 easing thresholds for initiating referendums.

The less restrictive requirements led to many groups initiating referendum questions, with 10 of the proposals being approved and placed on the ballot alongside elections for local government offices in November 2018.

The DPP suffered a heavy defeat in the mayoral and county commissioner races, however, and many of the referendum questions touched on issues unfavorable to the DPP government.

Having 10 referendums on the ballot also led to massively long lines at polling stations, as the Central Election Commission was clearly unprepared for the volume of work that had to be done.

The Legislature's Internal Administration Committee was originally scheduled to review a Cabinet-proposed bill to amend the Referendum Act on May 8 and 9, but was boycotted by the KMT caucus, resulting in a stalemate.

KMT caucus secretary-general John Wu said the DPP has to be held responsible for its votes while condemning its actions.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel