U.N.-bid referendums fail to pass

Required 50-percent threshold not reached in either ballot

Former President Lee Teng-hui, left, and his wife, right, are seen yesterday arriving at a polling station in Taipei to cast their votes for Democrati

Both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party-and the opposition Kuomintang-initiated U.N.-bid referendums failed to pass as the number of ballots cast did not meet the required threshold of 8,656,918 votes, or ballots from 50 percent of eligible voters. The two referendums together garnered approximately six million votes, which is only about 35 percent turnout.
The DPP-initiated referendum, which proposed that the island apply for membership in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan," received a total of 6,201,677 ballots, with 5,539,230 ballots in favor of the proposition and 352,359 against it.
The KMT-initiated referendum, which proposed that the island apply for membership to the U.N. under the name "Taiwan, Republic of China," or other alternatives, received a total of 6,187,118 ballots, with 4,962,309 ballots cast in favor of the proposition and 724,060 ballots against it.
The DPP-and KMT-led referendums had a turnout of 35.82 percent and 35.74 percent of eligible voters, respectively.
Yesterday, former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who voiced his support for DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) two days before the presidential election, claimed that he did not receive referendum ballots.
He told local media that he forgot to bring his referendum notice to the voting establishment, and thus he did not receive the referendum ballots from the election staff and could not cast a referendum vote.
However, according to Central Election Commission regulations, people who forget to bring their referendum notice when voting are still able to receive the referendum ballots and cast their vote.
Taiwan has held a total of six referendums, though all six have failed to pass. The most recent referendum failure is largely attributed to a boycott by the KMT. The KMT boycott meant that an insufficient number of ballots were cast in order to meet the threshold for a valid referendum.
High threshold
Taiwan's unusually high threshold, which requires at least 50 percent turnout in order for a referendum to be valid, has meant that the nation has thus far failed to pass any of its referendum propositions.
Both referendums failed to pass yesterday, despite the face that recent events in Tibet appeared to have reminded Taiwanese voters of the importance of their statehood.
Each party initiated separate referendums on Taiwan's bid to enter the U.N. The DPP-led U.N.-bid referendum was met with resistance from its initiation. Despite the fact that the DPP successfully collected a sufficient number of first-stage endorsements for the referendum, pro-KMT members on the KMT-dominated Referendum Review Commission vetoed the proposal on June 30, 2007.
The DPP government then filed an appeal to the Executive Yuan's Administrative Appeal Commission and its referendum proposal was passed on July 13, 2007. The DPP began collecting second-stage endorsements, and successfully garnered around two million signatures.
Other major obstacles in Taiwan's U.N.-bid referendum included opposition from China, the United States and other countries. China first voiced their opposition to Taiwan's U.N.-bid referendum on June 13, and the U.S. also attempted to stop Taiwan's plan to hold the referendum through private channels. During his mid-June visit to Taiwan, Raymond F. Burghardt, Chairman of the Board of the American Institute in Taiwan, informed President Chen of the U.S. government's objection to the U.N.-bid referendum.
In late August U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte reiterated the U.S.' opposition, saying that the State Department viewed the referendum as "a step toward a declaration of independence for Taiwan, towards the alteration of the status quo."
'Democratic values'
Despite mounting pressure from the U.S. government, Chen said in an August 31 television interview that the reason his relationship with the U.S. had deteriorated was due to his "disobedience" to the U.S.' "mandate."
"We do take the U.S.' concern very seriously, but we still need to determine whether their request was reasonable. Taiwan has its own interests and values, and if the U.S. wishes that Taiwan give up its pursuit of democratic values, then I wonder if the U.S. has lost the founding spirit of its nation?" Chen said in the interview.
Chen in late October further promoted the U.N.-bid referendum by hosting an island-wide torch relay.
In early December, Burghardt returned to Taipei and told media that the U.S. government considered the U.N. referendum a violation of Chen's "Four Noes" pledge.
The strongest blow for Chen was a comment by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who on December 21, 2007, called Taiwan's referendum plan "provocative."
In late January of this year, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union attempted to outline a compromise in order to ease the conflict between the DPP and KMT. DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh agreed to having the referendum held on a separate date if the referendum threshold was lowered through legislative revision. However, efforts to compromise ended in vain.