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Ma-Su meeting ends without agreement
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-25 03:10 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou and Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang conducted an animated discussion about the fourth nuclear plant Friday but failed to reach a consensus.

The opposition leader underlined his demand for an immediate referendum on the project, while Ma insisted the plant should be completed first and a safety inspection conducted before a vote.

The 85-minute discussion took place at the Presidential Office and was televised live in its entirety, but no news conference was held afterward.

It was the first meeting between Ma and Su in their capacity of president and opposition leader respectively, and came at the end of a week of encounters between the DPP chairman and top politicians from the ruling Kuomintang. Su wanted to find a way out of the nuclear impasse as his predecessor Lin Yi-hsiung began the fourth day of his hunger strike against the plant Friday.

The two reactors, now nearing completion in Gongliao, New Taipei City, have been the subject of dozens of debates and mass protests for decades.

During Friday’s discussion, Ma and Su were flanked by top advisers, including DPP policy chief Joseph Wu and Vice President Wu Den-yih, who intervened during the debate.

Ma emphasized a decision by the KMT legislative caucus reached Thursday evening, which would allow the plant to be finished and safety tests to be conducted before a referendum to decide whether power production could actually start. The installation of nuclear fuel rods and the operation of the plant could only begin after approval by the referendum, the KMT lawmakers decided.

Su insisted the threshold under the present Referendum Act was unacceptable. A DPP proposal presented last week would remove the need for at least 50 percent of eligible voters to turn up and cast their ballot in the referendum, a provision which has led every single plebiscite to be rejected.

Ma rejected a lowering of the threshold, saying that as the average voter turnout in Taiwan was 70 percent, a proposal could be approved by as few as 35 percent of voters. He added that the DPP referendum package could be discussed by the Legislative Yuan though.

The president said the two parties might not see eye to eye about the method for a referendum, but at least they agreed that there should be one.

Su said that the president, as the person in power, bore the responsibility of finding solutions to defuse national crises. After Ma said he would continue to discuss the nuclear issue with others, Su said he would return Saturday morning to see whether those conversations had born any result. He rounded off his visit to the president by giving him Lin’s latest book, reports said.

At the Legislative Yuan, the KMT and the DPP failed to reach agreement on how to deal with the opposition’s referendum legislation. The DPP wanted the measure to be moved to a second reading immediately, but the ruling camp blocked the move, saying the proposal should first undergo more discussions at the committee level.

Opposition lawmakers also criticized the KMT caucus for having apparently broken an agreement reached in February last year not to approve any extra budgets for the fourth nuclear plant before a referendum. Thursday’s decision by the KMT caucus to complete work on the project before a referendum amounted to a violation of last year’s accord, DPP lawmakers said.

Taiwan Independence groups reportedly said that if Lin died during his hunger strike, this would the time to give up on peaceful resistance and call for a revolution.

Anti-nuclear activists want to stage mass protests in Taipei during the weekend, including a morning run and rallies near the Legislative Yuan and the Presidential Office Building Saturday.

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