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Taiwan lawmaker to withdraw nuclear referendum proposal
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-09-10 04:28 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lee Ching-hua announced Tuesday he was withdrawing his legislative proposal for a nuclear referendum because of the political instability surrounding Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.

The legislator’s decision was expected to deal a blow to government hopes of holding the nationwide vote before the end of the year. Lee’s election district includes the New Taipei City district of Gongliao, where the fourth nuclear plant is nearing completion.

The Legislative Yuan failed to approve Lee’s proposal for the referendum question “Do you agree that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted and that it not become operational?” during two special summer sessions, partly because of strong opposition from the Democratic Progressive Party and partly because of the occurrence of other important political issues.

In a statement, Lee said the political situation had changed and become confused, with relations between the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan unclear.

The lawmaker was alluding to the influence-peddling allegations against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, which might result in his removal from the leadership of the Legislature amid a KMT power struggle.

The time was wrong to resolve the nuclear plant issue considering the Legislative Yuan’s present situation, Lee said.

Opposition against his question was also motivated by fears that if the referendum failed to have the necessary 50 percent of eligible voters participating, it would provide the government with a carte blanche to move ahead and complete the project. The DPP has tried in vain to push through changes to the Referendum Act which would make it easier for a proposal to be approved.

Earlier, the government announced that a far-reaching safety review of the Gongliao plant would not be finalized until next June, far later than the original referendum date. The KMT wanted to avoid a vote on the unpopular subject too close to December 2014, when elections are scheduled for mayors, county magistrates and councils all over the country.

The fourth nuclear plant and the referendum were seen as key elements of President Ma Ying-jeou’s government plans despite widespread public opposition. Polls have consistently revealed 60 percent to 70 percent or more opposed to the project, leading other parties to call on the government to drop its referendum plans and just announce a straightforward halt to the project.

Tens of thousands of anti-nuclear protesters took to the streets last March, on the eve of the second anniversary of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, to express their fears that a similar catastrophe could happen in Taiwan. Two of the three nuclear plants currently operating in the country lie close to the capital Taipei.

A campaign for a local referendum in New Taipei City spearheaded by former Vice President Annette Lu was rejected by a government commission. She is now pushing for a similar referendum in Taipei City.

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