Ex-President Lee praises referendums
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-06 07:36 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Referendums are the way to transcend the feudal thinking of governments and narrow party-political interests, former President Lee Teng-hui said Tuesday.

His comments came as the Legislative Yuan was still due to discuss proposed changes to the Referendum Act, in particular its threshold requiring that at least 50 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot before the result can be accepted as valid.

A referendum was the best way to express the opinions of the public and to resolve a major dispute, Lee said. No matter which political party would make policy decisions based on its own best interests, often without regard for its impact on the public at large.

Even though Taiwan had been a democracy for many years, lots of people in positions of authority still hold on to old “feudal” thinking, Lee said, naming it as the main reason why the students of the Sunflower Movement had received so much popular acclaim. The students occupied the Legislative Yuan from March 18 until April 10 in a protest against the trade-in-services pact with China after lawmakers from the ruling Kuomintang aborted a promised clause-by-clause review.

Lee referred to student protests during his own rule, which he said he supported and therefore succeeded in defusing after only about six days.

He also condemned the existing “winner-takes-all” election system with one legislator per district, where young candidates find it more difficult to break through and get elected. A referendum was the only way to allow the voice of the public and the voice of younger voters to be heard, according to the former president.

He called for more circumspection by government leaders, mentioning a recent promise that housing prices would fall by a third in just two years. Such a statement could create trouble for banks, he warned.

“Existence” was a key word to be considered in today’s world and today’s Taiwan, Lee reportedly said, criticizing globalization for causing a loss of sovereignty and identity.

The former president had been invited to make a speech in Taoyuan County titled “Launching the Second Democratic Reform.” When running both the country and the KMT from 1988 to 2000, Lee oversaw plenty of reforms, including the first complete re-election of the Legislative Yuan and in 1996 the first-ever direct presidential election, which he won by a decisive margin.

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