TAIPEI (CNA) — All five contenders for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) nomination in the 2020 presidential election joined thousands in a rally in Taipei on July 7 against what they called a significant erosion of voters’ rights in recent amendments to the Referendum Act.
The five contenders — Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), Foxconn Technology Group founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), former New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), former Taipei Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) and National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung (張亞中) — all took part in the demonstration on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.
The KMT-organized rally was held a day before party public opinion polls to pick its presidential candidate scheduled to kick off nationwide July 8-14, with the results to be released July 15.
In his address, Chu said democracy is the most precious thing for Taiwan.
Listening to different voices and respecting each other’s views is the core of democracy, according to Chu. However, he said, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has decided to set restrictions on the people’s right to cast referendum ballots.
“We need to use our ballots to force the DPP administration out and let the KMT regain power,” Chu said.
Chu, meanwhile, called on KMT supporters to unify in the face of a poorly performing DPP administration.
The DPP’s push for an “iron cage” referendum law amendment is aimed at restricting the country’s democracy and freedom of speech to silence those who hold different views from those of the DPP, the ex-mayor said.
For his part, Gou said the ruling party should change its name to Democratic “Regressive” Party under President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for its continuous efforts to erode the nation’s democracy.
Han, on the other hand, called on swing voters and DPP supporters to think twice before voting again for Tsai, who is seeking reelection.
“Has your life got any better over the past years (with Tsai in office)?” he asked.
He pledged that he will keep Taiwan safe while boosting the economy to make everybody rich if elected the country’s next president.
Meanwhile, Chang, a pro-China candidate, accused the DPP of abandoning Chinese culture, saying that he will restore the KMT’s glory and Republic of China tradition, describing himself as “Chinese and also Taiwanese.”
Together with all the KMT presidential candidate hopefuls, former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) pledged that should the KMT win the 2020 presidential election, it will make amendments to restore the people’s right to vote in referendums.
The revisions to the Referendum Act were pushed through by the DPP-controlled Legislative Yuan June 17 to restrict the holding of national referendums to only once every two years, on the fourth Saturday of August, starting in 2021.
The latest decision came after DPP lawmakers in late 2017 passed an amendment making it easier to initiate referendums, leading to 10 referendum questions being put to a vote along with the November 2018 local elections, in which the DPP suffered a major defeat.
The DPP decided to pass the latest amendments to prevent a recurrence of the problems of long lines at polling stations, slow voting, and delayed results that arose last November.
The amendments also drew protests from a number of civic groups, who said the decision would create new obstacles to passing referendums and undercut direct democracy.
The change is expected to drastically reduce the turnout rate at polling stations, making it extremely difficult for any referendum to pass, according to the civic group representatives.
By Joseph Yeh