Revised Referendum Act to take effect Friday

Taipei-The revised Referendum Act, aimed at lowering the thresholds for plebiscites in Taiwan, will take effect Friday after promulgation of the amended rules by President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

In a statement, the CEC said it will become the supervisory body for implementation of the amended law.

As an independent body, the CEC will implement the new law in a fair, open and transparent manner to ensure the rights of the Taiwanese people in a referendum, CEC Chairman Chen In-chin said in the statement.

The CEC said it is writing rules related to the amended act, including an electronic process for initiating a referendum and revised regulations on referendum debates.

In December, the Legislative Yuan passed the amendment to the Referendum Act, lowering the turnout quorum from 50 percent to 25 percent.

The new law also reduces the required number of signatures in the first stage from 0.1 percent to 0.01 percent of the electorate in the most recent presidential election, and from 5 percent to 1.5 percent in the second stage.

Moreover, the minimum voting age has been also lowered from 20 to 18, with the aim of encouraging more young people to participate in the referendum process.

Prior to the amendment, the Referendum Act, which was legislated in 2003, was referred to as a "birdcage" law because of its high thresholds and also because it gave the review committee the right to reject a referendum proposal even in cases when the thresholds were met.

Based on the electorate of 18,782,991 in the 2016 presidential election, the organizers of a referendum will be required to collect 1,879 signatures in the first stage, and more than 281,000 in the second stage.

President Tsai has hailed the passage of the new law as "a historic moment" in Taiwan's democracy process.

Of the six national referendums that have been held in Taiwan, three were launched by the former Democratic Progressive Party government in tandem with national elections in March 2004, January 2008 and March 2008, respectively, while the Kuomintang each time initiated a counterproposal.

None of the six referendums were declared valid due to the 50 percent turnout quorum, which made it easy for opponents to derail a vote by boycotting it.

Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council