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Election commission announces hearings on KMT referendum proposals

2020-10-17  English News
Photo courtesy of CNA
Photo courtesy of CNA

Taipei, Oct. 16 (CNA) Taiwan's Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on Friday that it will hold hearings on contentious portions of two recent referendum proposals brought by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), including one to overturn the government's easing of restrictions on imported U.S. pork.

In a press release, the CEC said it will arrange hearings to "clarify" petitions submitted by the KMT's leadership on Sept. 23 to ban the import of pork containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine and to hold referendums in conjunction with national or local elections.

Under CEC operating procedures, the commission will announce the hearing dates and disputed portions of the referendum proposals in the coming weeks. After the hearings, the lead proposers will be required to submit requested changes within 30 days.

The commission's decision to hold the hearings -- rather than allow the proposals to proceed to the second of Taiwan's three-stage referendum process -- was swiftly condemned by the KMT, which accused it of disregarding the people's will.

"A majority of the Taiwanese public has reservations about the (pork import) policy -- will they be unable to express them in a vote?" the KMT said in a statement.

"The CEC's obstruction of the people's will shows how the government of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) complicates and impedes the direct exercise of people's civil rights," it said.

The KMT has sought to quickly advance the referendum proposals in order to pressure the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on the pork imports policy, which will take effect early next year.

The policy is widely seen as a means of satisfying U.S. demands for beginning negotiations on a free trade agreement with Taiwan. In response to the public's concerns about the safety of consuming the additive, the DPP has pledged that it poses no risks to public health.

Under Taiwan's Referendum Act, referendums can take place every two years, with the next possible date being Aug. 28, 2021.

The law sets a three-stage process for passing a referendum.

The first stage requires the signatures of 0.01 percent of the number of voters in the most recent presidential election -- which would be 1,430 people based on the turnout of 14,300,940 voters in the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.

In the second stage, a petition must receive the signatures of 1.5 percent of voters -- or 214,514 people -- in the most recent presidential election, in order for the referendum to be held.

In the final stage, an initiative is put to a national referendum, and will be approved if 25 percent of all eligible voters in Taiwan vote in favor of the referendum and the number of votes in favor are greater than the number of votes against.