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PRESIDENT CHEN SAYS REFERENDUM SUCCESS MORE IMPORTANT THAN RE-ELECTION

2004-03-14 16:47:08

    Kaohsiung, March 14 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Sunday the success of Taiwan's first-ever nationwide referendum to be held alongside the March 20 presidential election is far more meaningful than his re-election.

    Addressing a campaign rally in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung, President Chen said the world is watching the results of Taiwan's first-ever nationwide referendum. "We should use the referendum ballots to show the world our determination to safeguard our homeland with peace and our commitment to creating permanent peace with mainland China," Chen said.

    In the March 20 referendum, voters will be asked two questions -- whether Taiwan should buy more anti-missile batteries if mainland China refuses to remove the hundreds of missiles it has targeted at the island and whether Taiwan should negotiate with Beijing for the establishment of a viable mechanism for bilateral interactions.

    The opposition "pan-blue alliance" of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party has questioned the legality and constitutionality of the upcoming referendum and is urging its supporters to boycott the referendum.

    In the face of the opposition boycott campaign, Chen urged voters to support the referendum to show their true love for Taiwan. "Let's write history for Taiwan with the referendum. Let's use the referendum ballots to show the world that democracy is more powerful than missiles and dictatorship," Chen said.

    According to Taiwan's Referendum Act, a nationwide referendum will be considered valid only if more than half of eligible voters vote in the referendum.

    Estimates indicate that at least 8.2 million voters must turn out to vote to make the upcoming referendum valid. Observers say the target will be difficult given that the opposition parties have traditionally enjoyed an edge in Taiwan's divided political map.

(By Sofia Wu)

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