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Jun 30, 2010

Don't despair

Sometimes its hard to follow your own advice. But in this case, it's important. Despite the signing of the ECFA today, there's no need to lsoe hope. There's lots of variables and lots of exciting times ahead.

No matter how fast the CCP intends to force Taiwan into political capitulation, and no matter how fast the KMT is willing to move toward a "path of no return" on unification, the opposition has time and has the ability to freeze or reverse the direction.

It might not be the brightest day, but the sun will again shine.

Jun 8, 2010

Referendum Rejected!

Well, as Michael and David noted, the Referendum Review Committee struck down the TSU-initiated referendum drive on the ECFA. An RTI article explains the Chairman's rational, also noted in this Taipei Times article:

The TSU's application requested a referendum on the question: “Do you agree that the government should sign an ECFA with China?”

“The reason stated for the referendum proposal is to ask if the government has the right to sign an ECFA. However, the question asked in the proposal is about the contents of an ECFA, which is different from the stated reason,” Referendum Review Committee Chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) told a press conference after the five-hour meeting.

The committee had convened at 6pm.

Chao said a referendum proposal should be aimed at changing the status quo, but the government would not have to take any action to change its policy, even if the proposed referendum had passed, because of the wording — asking whether voters agree with the government’s plan to sign an ECFA.

“The referendum proposal, therefore, does not meet the qualification of ‘approving a government policy,’ as stated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” he said.
So the response outlines two reasons the referendum is rejected: first, because the "stated reason" for initiating the referendum differs from the content; and second, because even if passed, the referendum couldn't change government policy by the Committee's reasoning.

The TSU has naturally responded unfavorably to the Committee's reasoning:
The TSU yesterday said that the issue had already been settled in a previous meeting by the ­Central Election Committee (CEC), which it said had found that the TSU referendum question fulfilled the requirements under Article 14, Section 1.

In a letter sent to TSU Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) on May 5, the CEC wrote that the issue had been discussed in one of their meetings on May 4.

The letter, signed by CEC Chairman Lai Hau-min (賴浩敏), stated: “The 402nd meeting of [CEC] committee members finds that [the proposal] doesn’t invoke any circumstances of Article 14, Section 1 under the Referendum Act.”
And as you can imagine, the Committee chair responded to that:
In response, Referendum Review Committee Chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) said yesterday the committee was entitled to determine whether the TSU proposal complied with Article 14 of the Referendum Act even if the CEC had already reviewed it.

Determining that the TSU proposal was not in line with the article was just one of the reasons that the committee rejected the proposal, he added.
Just one of the two reasons, the other being highly debatable. I would argue that if the ECFA referendum passes and the ECFA is still signed by the administration, the legislature would be obliged to strike down the ECFA.

I think TSU appeals may have some chance of getting air time -- the committee's decision is hardly air tight. But I also agree with David that perhaps a new route is probably needed here, probably one to more thoroughly amend the referendum law rather than just abolishing the Referendum Review Committee.

Time constraints now make further ECFA referendum initiatives pretty useless -- everything is likely to be signed and law before a referendum could even reach the second threshold. Perhaps its time to move on to the larger issue of tackling of the "bird cage" referendum law.

Jun 3, 2010


I'll be gone for the next 4 days, and when I get back, I'll be too late to provide any data on the Referendum Review Committee's impending decision. I'm not optimistic they'll approve the referendum, but I have my fingers crossed anyway.

Jun 1, 2010

The oddest piece...

A CNA article appears today quoting an unnamed official. The very weird part is the unnamed official is supposedly only reminding us of things we know....

The article opens as follows:

On June 3rd, the Referendum Review Committee will review the ECFA Referendum application. [An unnamed] source from [the ruling] party and government administration stated that the Mainland Affairs Council and Economic Ministry have already made the government's position clear: as the ECFA mainly involves land taxes and investment issues, it is not a topic that can be brought to referendum....

At the public hearing [held by the Referendum Review Committee on the 27th], the MAC and MOE argued that the ECFA had provisions related to land taxes and investment, and therefore could not be a topic for referendum [according to the Referendum Act]. Furthermore, once the ECFA is signed, it will be sent to the Legislature for review, and only after its review has been passed will it take effect. The Legislature has complete oversight over the process and there is no need for an additional referendum. The Referendum Review Committee ought to reject the application, they argued.

The source from the party and government administration said that the MAC and MOE had already made the government's attitude clear. As far as the final decision on the ECFA referendum petition went, the government would respect the Referendum Review Committee's decision.


陸委會與經濟部代表在公聽會主張,ECFA包含「租稅」及「投資」事項,不得作為公投的提案;且兩岸簽署ECFA後須送立法院審議,審議通過後才生效,國 會完全監督,沒有再公投必要,認為公審會應駁回公投案。


Why would this source wish to remain unnamed unnamed? That's what puzzles me the most, if they are just discussing a matter of public record. I feel like something else is going on there but can't really pin-point a reason for this odd anonymity.

The government's position is not far-fetched, considering Article 2 of the referendum law states:
No proposal of referendum may be raised for any matters regarding budgeting, taxation, investment, salary and personnel affairs.
The matters subject to referendum shall be recognized by the Referendum Review Commission (hereinafter referred to as "the Review Commission").
If you reject the government's theory, you can't argue that the referendum only deals with the question of whether the government ought to sign an abstract economic agreement with China (regardless of content). If you make that argument, you'll get rejected on these grounds:
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),” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) said....
But you can argue that in theory, any national referendum topic affecting government policy at all would affect the budget-- the KMT's 2008 referendum campaign for rejoining the UN would clearly have required budgeting UN dues if successful, since UN by-laws would require Taiwan to pay. But the intention of the Referendum Law is clearly not to bar all referendum topics; the degree of separation between a referendum topic and the budget/tax/investment details must exempt it from rejection on these grounds. In this case, the topic is on the signing of an ECFA rather than the ECFA's tax or investment related contents -- and therefore the referendum does not touch on the verboten topics.

I don't know if this argument would be taken into account by the committee, but I think 2008 sets enough of a precedent for at least an argument on these lines.