Referendums in Taiwan
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politics and government of
the Republic of China
The referendums in Taiwan are governed by the Referendum Act of Taiwan, which was enacted by the Legislative Yuan in December 2003. While the initiative follows from the Three Principles of the People and referendums are mentioned by Chapter 9, Article 136 of the Constitution of 1947, a law pertaining specifically to referendums was not enacted until 2003. The Referendum Act was promoted by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians such as Chai Trong-rong, Lin Yi-hsiung, Yeh Chu-lan, Lu Hsiu-yi, Lin Cho-shui, and the Chen Shui-bian-Annette Lu administration. While both citizens of Taiwan and the Legislative Yuan can initiate the referendum process, the Pan-Blue Coalition held a legislative majority at the time of the act's promulgation, and set an extremely high bar to prevent its application.
As of 2016, no national referendum has been carried out validly yet and three local referendums are valid. New Power Party, Taiwan Solidarity Union, and some DPP members are major forces in the legislature calling for reform.
Article 17 of the Referendum Act states "When the country is under the threat of foreign force and the national sovereignty is likely to be changed, the President may, with the resolution of the meeting of the Executive Yuan, apply the matters regarding the national security to referendum." Such a referendum has not yet been held.
- Taiwanese cross-Strait relations referendum, 2004 (March)
- Taiwanese transitional justice referendum, 2008 (January)
- Taiwanese United Nations membership referendums, 2008 (March)
In each of the six national referendums, "Yes" votes have won a majority over "No" votes. However, the referendum results were invalidated each time due to low turnout rate. According to the Referendum Law, 50% turnout of qualified voters is required for the referendum to be valid. The threshold has yet to be reached, as the Kuomintang asked its supporters to boycott each referendum. Therefore, the removal of the turnout restriction in the referendum law has been proposed.
A national referendum on the state of Kuomintang party assets was proposed in 2006. The Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations was promulgated by the Legislative Yuan in July 2016 to handle the issue instead.
In 2010, the Referendum Review Committee, then controlled by the Pan-Blue Coalition, rejected several referendum proposals against the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, signed in 2010. despite the collection of nearly 200,000 signatures supporting a referendum on Cross-Strait economic pacts. Public opinion surveys show a majority of respondents opposed the signing of the ECFA with China and many experts, politicians, and protesters see a referendum for the ECFA as essential.
In 2016, Kuomintang vice chairman Hau Lung-pin proposed that the fate of a food import ban in place against Japan since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster be decided via referendum. The Kuomintang legislative caucus moved to reduce turnout restrictions so the food import ban could be considered via referendum, but the proposal did not pass.
There were four local referendums held as of 2016. The first one was held in Kaohsuing in 2008 for reducing the size of classes in elementary school and high school. It was invalid due to its low turnout rate. The other three attempted to legalize casinos and were valid due via special law: the ones held in Penghu in 2009 and 2016 failed while the one held in Lienchiang in 2012 succeeded. No legal casino has yet been established in Taiwan.
- Constitution of the Republic of China. Wikisource. Chapter XII: ELECTION, RECALL, INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM, Article 136.
- 民進黨完成公民投票法草案, Taiwan Television News, 1993/3/14
- President defends nation's right to hold referendums, Taipei Times, 2003/8/15
- Taiwan referendum bill sets stage, BBC, 2003/11/28
- Vote to push for status quo, Chen says, Taipei Times, 2003/12/5
- Concert held to commemorate DPP’s Chai Trong-rong, Taipei Times, 2014/2/19
- 誰主導了全世界最落伍的鳥籠式公投法？, Taiwan People News, 2014-5-6
- DPP firm on changing referendum law, Taipei Times, 2009/8/29
- NPP tables amendments to the Referendum Act, Taipei Times, 2016/3/23
- New Legislative Session: NPP reveals list of priority legislation, Taipei Times, 2016/9/14
- Referendum Act, National Laws & Regulations Database of TAIWAN
- President Chen: Conditions met for referendum, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, 2004-02-04
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- Lin, I-fan (August 5, 2013). "Nuclear Opponents in Taiwan Work to Change 'Unfair' Referendum Law". Global Voices Online. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
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- Chung, Jake (26 July 2016). "Legislature approves law on ill-gotten party assets". Taipei Times. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- Excutive Yuan group upholds referendum rejection, Taipei Times, 2010/2/27
- ECFA referendum proposal rejected, Taipei Times, 2010/6/4
- TSU see red as ECFA referendum rejected, Taipei Times, 2010/7/26
- Heated words from the TSU after latest ECFA referendum rejection, Formosa News, 2010/8/11
- DPP completes first stage of ECFA referendum bid, Taipei Times, 2009/7/21
- Protesters demand referendum, Taipei Times, 2010/5/30
- TSU still fighting for vote on ECFA, Taipei Times, 2010/7/1
- TSU submits signatures for another ECFA referendum, Taipei Times, 2010/11/23
- DPP poll reveals majority opposed to signing of ECFA, Taipei Times, 2010/3/26
- DPP chairwoman renews call for referendum on ECFA, Focus Taiwan, 2010/4/9
- Ex-grand justice sees ECFA referendum as essential, Taipei Times, 2014/4/22
- Hsu, Stacy (2 December 2016). "KMT pushes for a referendum on food import ban". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- Chang, Jung-hsiang; Liu, Kuan-ting; Su, Justin; Wu, Lilian (1 December 2016). "KMT vice chair calls for referendum on radiation-affected food". Central News Agency. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
- Chung, Jake (10 December 2016). "KMT proposal to amend Referendum Act defeated". Taipei Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- Referendum short of threshold, Taipei Times, Nov 16, 2008
- Penghu referendum rejects casinos again, Focus Taiwan, 2016/10/15
- Group says Matsu casino referendum was rigged, Taipei Times, 2012/7/11
- Referendum Act, National Laws & Regulations Database of TAIWAN
- Taiwan's Referenda, Constitutional Reform and the Question of Taiwan's International Status - Foreign Policy Research Institute