A referendum is a system in which people (or electorate) are called upon to vote on a particular decision.
Four referendum questions were put to the vote. Voters in Taiwan have rejected all the referendum proposals. The first was whether to ban imports of pork containing trace amounts of addictive ractopamine from the USA. Pork is a staple food of Taiwanese cuisine. Its ban on imports would have seriously impacted USA-Taiwan trade relations. People voted against the ban, much to the delight of the ruling Government, Democratic Progressive Party, which is pro-USA—although the opposition Kuomintang, which seeks closer ties with China, had urged the ban to be there on food safety and public health grounds.
It allowed President Tsai Ing-wen and her Government to continue its trade policies. A “yes” to the ban would have presented Tsai with the dilemma of following the people’s will and potentially upset Taiwan’s most important political and military backer, the USA.
In the second referendum, the voters were asked whether the Government should hold future referendums at the same time as public office elections. Again the voters sided with the Government and said, “No.”
The third referendum asked voters to decide whether to relocate a liquefied natural gas terminal to protect an algal reef. The environmental groups had objected to the project, citing the impact on the coral reef. Again the answer was “No.” It is an important plant that will help Taiwan transition away from coal and nuclear power. Taiwan is playing an increasingly vital role in the global semiconductor industry, which consumes nearly 5% of the island’s electricity. Taiwan suffered major blackouts, raising questions over the island’s energy needs.
In the fourth referendum, voters were asked whether Taiwan should reactivate its unfinished fourth nuclear power plant to overcome electricity shortages. The answer was “No.” The present Government maintains that not only there is nowhere to dump the nuclear waste on the island, it is also hazardous to restart the nuclear power plant, mainly when it is located in an earthquake zone.
The referendum was made on the initiative of the opposition Nationalist Party (Koumingtag) rather than by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). But the outcome was a significant setback for the opposition.