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Taiwan postpones 4 referendums from August to December due to COVID

Votes will deal with referendum dates, pork imports, algal reef protection and nuclear energy

CEC Chairman Lee Chin-yung announced a recall vote and the postponement of four referendums (CNA, CEC photo) 

CEC Chairman Lee Chin-yung announced a recall vote and the postponement of four referendums (CNA, CEC photo) 

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Four referendums originally scheduled for Aug. 28 will take place on Dec. 18 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced Friday (July 2).

Despite the postponements, a recall vote targeting the only legislator for the Taiwan Statebuilding Party, Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), will take place in his Taichung City election district as planned on Aug. 28.

The four referendum questions deal with allowing plebiscites to be held on the same date as general elections, the legalization of the import of pork containing residues of the leanness drug ractopamine, the revival of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City, and the protection of a coastal algal reef in Taoyuan City against plans for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving station.

The Kuomintang (KMT) has been vocal in defending the need for the referendums. On the first question, the opposition party argues that holding the plebiscites on the same day as elections will increase turnout and save costs.

Despite the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant having been mothballed for several years, the KMT still opposes government plans to turn Taiwan nuclear-free by 2025, while it has also condemned the opening of pork imports from the United States early this year.

The referendum question about the algal reef was launched by environmentalists, with the government trying to defuse the issue by proposing to move the LNG station further away.

Explaining the postponement of the votes, the CEC said Friday that factors such as the low COVID-19 vaccination rate and the need for many voters to travel back home to cast a ballot played a part in its decision, CNA reported. A total of 19.8 million people are eligible to vote, which would have caused a mass movement at a time when the coronavirus might still pose a danger, officials said.