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Reform may be coming in referendums

Reform may be coming in referendums

What if they held a referendum and no one cast a negative vote? It happens in Taiwan all the time, but a growing number of disgruntled citizens are working to change that.

The way Taiwan’s referendum procedures are set up, voters often face ballots that offer only two choices: either vote for a proposition or leave the ballot unmarked to show that you do not support the proposition. Thus voters are only allowed to cast affirmative votes, something which the "Vote Negative Alliance" hopes to change.The group has already submitted a petition to the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), which indicated a few days ago that the petition may have a good chance of winning approval.

Backers of the petition include well-known figures from Taiwan’s political and financial circles such as Sam Chang, Su Chi, Kao Hsi-chun, Shih Ming-teh and Kung Sun-tse. They want to revise the referendum system so that voters will have a chance to express negative opinions. When a similar petition was submitted to the MOI two years ago, then-Premier Sean Chen acknowledged that being able to cast a negative vote gives citizens a way to express their dissatisfaction with a law or a policy, a factor which can not only help improve voter turnout, but could also help weed out extreme candidates in elections.

Sam Chang posted an article on his Facebook page recently which reasoned that "allowing No votes in elections can effective help to draw out the negative votes in a referendum. Chang said this is a useful tool in developing a better democracy and said the "Taiwan can lead the way in doing this." He said making such a change would undoubtedly bring about better turnout and proclaimed, “Voting is a basic human right, and so is voting against something.”

In the 9-in-1 election at the end of November last year, many retired military and government personnel who were unhappy with their retirement packages united to form the "Military, Government Workers and Teachers Invalid Ballots Union" and totted up more than 250,000 invalid ballots, an increase of more than 70,000 or 40% compared with figures from voting in 2009 and 2010..

Deputy Minister Chen Chwen-jing of the MOI explained that being able to cast a negative vote makes it easier to discuss positions in a referendum. He said this is largely a technical issue and the alliance should work to come up with more examples to serve as references for people in voting for referendums. He added that he believes the MOI will take a “positive view" of the alliance’s petition regarding referendums.

The lack of a negative vote option is only one aspect of Taiwan’s procedures for a referendum drawing attention, but other wanted changes are considerably more complicated and thorny and will need to draw more support in order to win approval. The biggest sticking point at present is that of the thresholds, which require a voter turnout of 50% or more as well as affirmative votes by 50% or more of those casting ballots. To date those numbers have proven insurmountable for those seeking to bring about change in Taiwan through the referendum mechanism.

Updated : 2021-09-23 17:53 GMT+08:00