Lōa Io̍k-sin of the Taipei Times has the story of the day, which is being overshadowed the usual gossip and, of course, the Dalai Lama's impending visit. But I find this committee's 13-4 decision shocking and really didn't see this coming. Key paragraphs below.
The Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee yesterday turned down a petition submitted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asking for a referendum on the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that the government plans to sign with China....The committee is composed 100% of Ma appointees. But could it be that politics is not the main factor here? To evaluate how reasonable this decision is, we have to take another look at the referendum wording:
“The majority of committee members felt that the question in the referendum petition was not clear enough,” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) told a news conference after the meeting. “It does not ask the public to express its opinion on a proposal of a legislative principle, a major policy decision, or concrete issues of a major policy.”
“Instead, it asks the public to vote on something that has not yet happened — since the ECFA is not a concrete policy yet. Hence, we decided that the petition did not meet the criteria for a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” he said....
“Holding a referendum on whether a referendum should be held is not a question that can be asked in a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act,” Chao said.
「你是否同意台灣與中國簽訂之經濟合作架構協議（ＥＣＦＡ），政府應交付台灣人民公民投票決定？」The DPP got a lot of flack for this phrasing -- it simply asks people if they want a referendum later instead of asking people if they want an ECFA outright -- but in retrospect, you could also say they predicted the committee's objections!
Do you agree that the government ought to put an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China to a referendum before the Taiwanese people?
Instead of trying to reject a hypothetical ECFA, the referendum asks if the public wants the government to submit this future agreement to referendum. That wording seems to override committee objections, being both clear and asking the public to make a concrete policy decision -- specifically, whether the public should have direct oversight of the final wording of the ECFA.
The final objection, that you can't hold a referendum on whether there should be a referendum, seems to me to not be addressed by the Referendum Act at all, and is a subjective reading of the statute. To reach that conclusion, you'd have to argue that referendum oversight is not a concrete issue of a major policy.
There is one sense in which the DPP question may be unclear -- namely, that if the ECFA that is signed between Taiwan and China and then goes to referendum, what happens if the public rejects it? The ECFA would already be signed. Does it have to be shredded? That's clearly the DPP intent, though the referendum wording does not specify the end game.
More from the article:
National Taiwan University law professor Chen Miao-fen (陳妙芬), who voted in favor of the petition, said that she did not endorse the committee's conclusion.Democratic process at work!
“We didn't have a thorough discussion before the chairman called a vote on it,” Chen said, adding that while the meeting started at 2pm, they did not start discussing details of the proposal until around 3:30pm and that Chao rushed to close the discussion and call a vote at 5:30pm.
“We voted on whether to close the discussion, and the result was 9 to 9, meaning that half of the people still thought that we needed more time,” she said. “But the chairman ruled to end the discussion — I thought it was quite abrupt.”
The DPP is expected to file an appeal.That appeal, would go to the Central Election Commission.