Taiwan Legislative Yuan approves nuclear referendum question
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-04-26 02:48 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The ruling Kuomintang majority at the Legislative Yuan approved a proposal Friday for a question to be put to the public in a nationwide referendum by the end of the year, though objections from the opposition meant a month of further negotiations was ahead.

KMT legislator Lee Ching-hua’s proposal to put the question ‘do you agree that the construction of the fourth nuclear plant should be halted and that it not be allowed to operate?’ on the ballot won the support of 60 lawmakers, with 45 voting against.

As soon as the result was announced, the opposition filed a motion for cross-party negotiations. The request automatically delays any further decision on the issue by a month, during which the various caucuses can exchange ideas on the subject.

The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party said the phrasing of Lee’s question was a government trick to allow construction to continue. Under the existing Referendum Act, the result of the vote will not be accepted unless at least 50 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot.

Because a total of 44 lawmakers were scheduled to speak on the topic for at least 4 minutes each, the vote about Lee’s proposal did not take place until the early evening.

Two previous attempts at passing the same proposal failed when opposition lawmakers occupied the speaker’s platform last week and last Tuesday.

In the morning, the opposition tried to have the agenda changed to allow its proposal for a complete halt to the project now nearing completion in Gongliao, New Taipei City, to be treated as the first item of the day.

The opposition and anti-nuclear campaigners say the referendum is a waste of time. Since opinion polls show clearly that a majority of up to 70 percent and more is opposed to the plant, the government should move straight away to announce the abandonment of the project.

The KMT rejected the attempt, though one of its more outspoken members, Lo Shu-lei, abstained, which could lead her to face a fine of NT$10,000 (US$337). The Taipei-based lawmaker is an opponent of the nuclear plant, but has frequently clashed with the KMT leadership on other issues as well. Legislative Vice Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu recently lashed out at Lo’s tendency to slam the government. Lo said that if the DPP provoked another vote on the same issue the next time, she would vote with the KMT caucus because she did not want to incur any more fines.

Another KMT opponent of the nuclear project, Ting Shou-chung, voted with his party against the DPP.

When the session started, the three-member Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus again occupied the speaker’s area, but this time they were not joined by the DPP. When they were removed by KMT colleagues, TSU lawmaker Lin Shih-chia accused the main opposition party of letting them down.

The DPP replied that the TSU demand to move the nuclear issue into a month-long negotiation phase would draw the issue out of the public eye and thus play into the hands of the government and the KMT.

The majority also defeated a People First Party motion to set up a special legislative review committee for the fourth nuclear plant.

While lawmakers were discussing the proposals inside, anti-nuclear campaigners showed up outside the Legislative Yuan building wearing white cover-all safety suits and holding sunflowers as a symbol of their struggle for the environment. ‘Nuclear energy back to zero’ was the slogan which featured prominently on yellow banners and stickers. They met the news about the outcome of the vote about Lee’s question with anger and disbelief, reports said.

Over the past week, opponents of nuclear energy slammed a Ministry of Economic Affairs booklet which claimed Taiwan could face a higher risk of power shortages after 2015 and especially from 2018 if the Gongliao plant could not operate. Critics accused the government of intimidation.

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