Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-04-18 07:31 PM
Friday’s vote became necessary when the committee in charge of setting the agenda was unable to reach a consensus earlier this week. The vote will decide on the fate of a motion by ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lee Ching-hua, in whose election district the plant is situated. He wants the referendum question to read ‘Are you in favor of stopping construction of and not operating the fourth nuclear plant?’
Critics said the phrasing was a trick to allow construction in Gongliao, New Taipei City, to continue if the required 50 percent of eligible voters do not participate in the referendum.
Apart from likely clashes inside the Legislature, anti-nuclear activists said they wanted as many people as possible to protest outside and possibly surround the building.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party renewed its call Thursday on the government to declare an immediate stop to the project, which has been labeled by critics as dangerous to the public and to the environment, as well as a waste of public money.
The opposition party said it would try and change the agenda for Friday’s session so a vote could take place about the scrapping of the Gongliao project as well. It called on the 33 KMT legislators who support Lee’s question to let reason prevail and to allow for a stop to the project.
The ruling party has reportedly mobilized all of its lawmakers, even though some are known opponents of the plant. The KMT controls 65 out of 113 legislative seats, but it is likely to use sanctions and fines against members who do not vote along with party directives.
President Ma Ying-jeou and his government have said they want a nationwide referendum to decide on the fate of the controversial plant, while saying that declaring an immediate stop as critics ask, would be unconstitutional.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang said the claim was completely false and designed to mislead the public. He pointed at opinion polls showing up to more than 70 percent of the public in agreement with halting the project.
An international team of safety experts is staying at the Gongliao plant to conduct months of tests which are expected to be completed before voters go to the polls in either November or December.
The opposition demanded answers from the Taiwan Power Corporation about an alleged expensive seafood banquet the manager of the Gongliao factory gave to nuclear safety specialists. The company denied it was trying to influence the outcome of the safety review.
The government has been insisting a referendum only makes sense if the plant is safe. It has argued that scrapping the project will lead to electricity price rises and inflation, while Taiwan’s effort to reduce carbon emissions will suffer as it will have to rely on other energy sources.
The DPP has proposed a complete nuclear phase-out by 2025 and a full-out attempt at finding alternative sources of energy.