Campaign for the ECFA Referendum
[UPDATE July 8, 2009] We have successfully collected more than 180,000 signatures, well pass the 1st stage required threshold of 80,000!!
I. Why Do We Need a Referendum on ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement)?
Because ECFA will have critical economic, social, security and political impacts on our country, it should be decided by the people, not solely by the government.
No matter what the content of an ECFA might be, there is no doubt that it will determine the economic integration of Taiwan and China and is bound to change the future fate of Taiwan. It will have critical economic, social, security and political impacts on our people and our children.
The power to decide something of this importance cannot be left solely in the hands of the president and a minority of the ruling class. Otherwise the public benefits that should be gained by all citizens will be transferred into the private gain of this ruling group.
If we are successful in this referendum, it will set as a principle that any major future cross-strait agreement must undergo a citizens’ referendum and not simply be done by the government.
This will bring three benefits:
Safeguarding our national interests. Through the referendum, dialogue and discussion will begin. In order to pass the referendum, the government would have to persuade and explain to people what the agreement and policy are about and change its current practice, thus making the policymaking process more transparent and democratic. Also, Taiwan negotiators, cognizant of the need to “sell” the agreement to the Taiwanese people, will be able to take a more confident and firm position when fighting for Taiwan’s best national interests instead of letting China have it way.
Forcing the beginning of the reform of the current referendum system. The use of referenda is a common practice in mature democracies. However, in Taiwan, we have the strictest, most constrained referendum law in the world. If we successfully set the principle that any major future cross-strait agreement must undergo a citizens’ referendum, then the legal responsibility to call a referendum could be re-granted to the Executive Branch. It would also “motivate” the government to liberalize the current restrictions on holding referenda if the government wants to see a referendum pass. This would knock down the high wall we have now and allow citizens to have a more complete direct democracy.
Creating a more peaceful unified and harmonized Taiwan. Finally, the relationship of Taiwan and China is the source of domestic political divisions. The best way to resolve these disputes is through a democratic mechanism. Each party has its own approach and there is be no better way than to let the people judge the parties and their approaches.
Direct democracy is our last defense.
Polls show that…
81% of CEOs in Taiwan do not know what the ECFA is. (Common Wealth Magazine, May 2009)
63.7% of respondents thought that the ECFA would have an impact on Taiwan’s sovereignty, and that it should ultimately be decided through a referendum. ( DPP Poll in March, 2009)
89.2% believe the policy should be fully discussed and overseen by the Legislative Yuan, and 78.2% agreed that the ruling party should reach consensus with the opposition before negotiating deals like ECFA. ( DPP Poll in March, 2009)
80.2% opposed signing a cross-strait agreement, like ECFA, under the One-China Principle. ( DPP Poll in March, 2009)
However, President Ma said that it’s imperative to sign an ECFA with China and it has to be signed by the end of this year or even this summer. He also added that no referendum is needed on the ECFA.
With President Ma soon to become the chairperson of the KMT and thus gain control over the government, the legislature and the military, and with the ruling party holding 75% of the seats in the legislature, that leaves no room for the opposition to oppose or even to propose a bill. Also, the government has neglected people’s opinion as shown in polls, media, town meetings, the “Taiwan Citizen Conference on National Affairs”, rallies and street protests. What tool do we have left in the democratic system to express our concern or to check the power of government? The answer is direct democracy- the referendum. If the ruling group really is interested in selling out Taiwan, then only a democratic mechanism can serve to guard Taiwan as a last line of defense. This is what the Democratic Progressive Party advocates by the principle of “Use Democracy to Protect Taiwan.”
II. Overview of the referendum system in Taiwan:
The Referendum Act stipulates that in order to hold a referendum in Taiwan
Step 1: The signatures of 0.5% of eligible voters (approximately 80,000) must be collected to apply to hold a referendum.
Our goal is to collect 100,000 signatures by the end of June.
Step 2: The petitions are sent to the Central Election Committee’s Referendum Review Committee for review.
Step 3: If the proposal passes the review, the signatures of 5% of eligible voters (approximately 800,000) must be collected within six months in order to have the referendum actually put to a vote.
If the proposal is rejected by the Committee, then an administrative appeal can be filed with the Executive Yuan.
Step 4: 50% of eligible voters (approximately 8,000,000) must vote on the referendum for the vote to be valid.
II. How Will We Do It? 100,000 strong “ECFA Referendum Vanguard” Campaign
Facing these high thresholds- whether it is 1 million petitioners or 8 million voters, we will have to have people beyond the green-blue political lines participating. So it is necessary that this referendum campaign take the shape of a society-wide one. Thus, we are now recruiting 100,000 volunteers (our ‘ECFA Referendum vanguard’) to get the petition drive started. (“How to Become a ‘ECFA Referendum vanguard’?” http://ecfa.pixnet.net/blog/post/25573929)
For those 100,000 in the vanguard, there are three major tasks:
Complete the collection of 100,000 signatures for the first stage petition required for holding a referendum;
Once the Referendum Commission has accepted the petition as valid, this vanguard of 100,000 will use their network with each one garnering 10 voters so that we can get over the second hurdle in having a referendum put to all the people.
Continue to push for the “Safeguard Taiwan! Oppose the ‘Lean-towards-China’ Policy” campaign among the people.
This is a challenging task, even more daunting than getting 600,000 people out for our street demonstration of May 17th. However, faced with a president and ruling party that pays no attention to the people, we must rise up united and show our great strength.