Lawmakers approved amendments to the Referendum Act on June 18. Starting in 2021, referendums are to be held on the fourth Saturday of August every two years. Therefore, The referendums are now officially decoupled from next year's presidential election.
Members of NGOs chant their slogan and criticize the latest Referendum Act revision as a blow to the democratic system since it raises the threshold of passing referendum proposals. The latest revision effectively delay all the referendums that were scheduled to be held along with next year's presidential elections, and affect the rights of people to take part in referendums.
(The revision is akin to) halting a game half-way through and announcing to the audience that the game will continue in two years. It's like announcing a two-year long extension out of the blue. We strongly protest the latest revision.
Local NGOs criticize that the revision makes future referendum proposals much less likely to clear difficult requirement to become actual referendums. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) also criticized the amendment proposed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), saying their proposal was politically motivated.
The DPP is really changeable. When they were the opposition party, they strongly supporting holding referendums along with local elections. Now that they are the ruling party, they have completely flip-flopped.
The referendums held last year were quite chaotic, and the DPP is looking to get it back on track.
The latest revision puts a number of ongoing referendum proposals in question. They include the referendum on the rebooting the No.4 Nuclear Power Plant which is currently in its second phase where the public submit their signatures in support of the proposal. Other ongoing proposals include Peace and Neutrality for Taiwan, proposed by Former Vice President Annette Lu, as well as the one on transforming Taiwan into a digital nation proposed by former Premier Chang San-cheng. The Central Election Commission (CEC) said these ongoing proposals will still proceed according to the previous version of the Referendum Act.
The process of passing a referendum proposal is as follows: proposing a referendum, collecting signatures, and the announcement of the referendum. For the referendum proposals that are in the process of collecting signatures, they will still proceed according the previous version of the referendum act.
The revised Referendum Act effectively pushes all referendums to August 2021, which means there won't be any referendum held during the presidential election next year. The CEC said they respect the decision made by the Legislative Yuan and will act according to the new law. The CEC also said that they recruited about 300,000 staff members for last year's nine-in-one local elections, and that they won't have to recruit as many under the revised law.