TAIPEI (REUTERS) – Taiwan’s election commission approved on Friday (May 14) the holding of three referendums in late August that could affect both the island’s relations with the United States and its own energy security if they are passed.
Referendums have increasingly been used to resolve contentious issues such as same-sex marriage, though they need a turnout of at least 25 per cent of some 19 million eligible voters to be valid, with a majority voting “yes” to get passed.
“The Central Election Commission has deliberated on, and approved, three referendums,” it said in a statement.
The two most contentious issues to be decided on could have wider implications if approved when put to voters on Aug 28.
One is whether to ban pork containing a leanness-enhancing additive, while the other concerns whether to change the site of a planned new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to protect the maritime environment.
Last year, the government approved pork containing ractopamine, which is banned in the European Union and China though widely used in the United States, despite the objections of the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, on safety grounds.
The government hopes the approval will pave the way for a free trade deal with Washington, but major Taiwan food firms have pledged not to sell or import pork made with ractopamine.
The LNG referendum asks whether the terminal should be relocated from a site that affects a northern algal reef. The government says the terminal is vital for energy security, but has already said it will change the site.
The third vote asks whether referendums should be held on the same day as general elections, which supporters say would lead to higher turnout.
A fourth referendum, on whether the government should continue building a stalled fourth nuclear power plant, has already been approved and also goes to the vote on Aug 28. The government wants to phase out nuclear power.
The government is obliged to propose laws that reflect the results.
However, when voters rejected same-sex marriage in 2018, the government went ahead with the law, as the supreme court had already ruled that such couples had the legal right to marry.