The Central Election Commission to decide how to issue blank referendum ballots

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Central Election Commission (CEC) is scheduled to meet today to decide how to issue blank referendum ballots on March 22 next year. Eligible voters will go to the polls on that day to not only elect their new president, but also to vote on a referendum on Taiwan’s admission to the United Nations under the name of Taiwan, which President Chen Shui-bian plans to hold simultaneously. CEC members recommended for appointment by the opposition, are ready to oppose a new plan for the issuance of the blank ballots. “Our Pro-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) opposite numbers intend to ram their plan through to get voters to receive the ballots for president and those for the referendum at one desk,” said Chao Shu-chien, who was appointed to the CEC at the recommendation of the opposition Kuomintang. The issuance of blank ballots at one desk in the polling station is aimed to raise voter participation in the referendum. To be valid, a referendum has to be voted on by at least half of the electorate. A simple majority then passes the referendum. Two previous referendums were declared invalid because participation in the voting was far short of the absolute majority. They were held alongside the presidential election of 2004. Voters were required to receive the ballots at two different desks. They received ballots for president at the first desk and then went on to the second to receive ballots and cast them for the referendums. Many voters refused to go to the second desk in 2004. “That’s why those CEC members who are for the ruling party want to have one-stop voting to get more voters to take part in their referendum,” Chao said. Founded under the Executive Yuan in 1982, the CEC is controlled by the ruling party.

Lai Hao-han, Chao’s Kuomintang colleague at the CEC, said he “will oppose to the end” the DPP plan to have voters stop at only one desk at the polling station. As participation in the referendum increases, Lai said, so will the voting for president. “The ruling party hopes that will help its candidate win,” he added. The press broke news on the one-stop plan yesterday. Teng Tien-yu, CEC secretary-general, said nothing definite has been decided yet. “We’ll call a meeting to take the decision one way or the other on Friday,” Teng said. Today’s meeting may have to defer the decision, if the opposition is too strong to overcome. Then, the decision will have to be made when the CEC meets again next Friday. “Another meeting is scheduled for Oct. 26 to deal with a similar plan for the legislative elections,” Teng announced.

A new Legislative Yuan will be elected on Jan. 12. The chances are that the CEC, the sole government agency to call and supervise elections, will decide to get the one-stop plan adopted for both the presidential and legislative elections.