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2004-02-22 18:51:45

    Taipei, Feb. 22 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian urged his countrymen Sunday to be sure to vote in the country's first national referendum on March 20, saying that not doing so would be tantamount to handing a victory to mainland China.

    Speaking to a group of his supporters in Taipei City, the president called on the people to show their resentment towards Beijing's military threat against Taiwan, claiming that the number of Beijing's missiles targeting Taiwan increases at the rate of one every six days.

    He criticize his only rival in the presidential race, Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan, as "selfish" by branding the referendum illegal and vowing in Saturday's presidential debate that he would not participate in the referendum voting.

    Chen said Lien has set a bad example for the country by taking the law into his own hands and determining on his own that the referendum is illegal.

    The power to declare the referendum legal or not is held by the Council of Grand Justices, Chen said, adding that Lien is usurping the power of the Grand Justices by declaring the referendum illegal.

    He also criticized Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou for trying to carry out the referendum in a way different from that stipulated by the Executive Yuan, saying the mayor is trying to create chaos within the government.

    The Executive Yuan has ordered that voters be given three ballots at polling stations: one for the presidential election and two for each of the referendum questions. Voters are to then mark the ballots and place them in each of the three boxes marked accordingly.

    Mayor Ma has decided that in Taipei, voters will only be given a ballot to vote for president upon entering polling stations. After voters have marked this ballot and deposited it in the box for presidential election ballots, the voters will then be able to pick up the other two ballots for the referendum. "If the mayor can refuse to abide by the central government's decree on the excuse that it is not legal, the city's residents can follow suit and refuse to comply with the decisions of the mayor, " the president said.

    Meanwhile, a campaign worker for Lien explained Sunday that the KMT presidential candidate was speaking of his personal view rather than the party's line when he said the previous day that he would not vote in the March 20 referendum, which he said is not based on law.

    Huang Teh-fu, who is in charge of public opinion surveys for Lien's presidential campaign, said the official policy of the KMT and People First Party (PFP) , the KMT's ally in the presidential race, remains, " Vote for Lien in the presidential election, but decide for yourself whether to vote in the referendum." "That means we respect the voters' decisions on the referendum rather than calling for them to follow Lien's example," Huang said.

    Both Lien and his running mate, PFP Chairman James Soong, have said they would not vote in the referendum, saying that it is illegal.

    However, their chief campaign manager, Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng, said he will vote in the referendum but Mayor Ma was unwilling to commit, saying that as the vote is supposed to be secret, he prefers to keep his cards close to his chest.

    In Hsinchuang, Taipei County, Ma also said that his camp will not try to influence followers of the party to take a position on the referendum.

    But he defended the way Taipei is to implement the referendum, saying that the method for voting was reached by a non-partisan subcommittee of the city's election commission, which is simpler and less likely to cause confusion than the way worked out by the Executive Yuan.

    The election commission's greatest concern is that the referendum vote goes smoothly, not to have a referendum that produces an outcome favorable to any political party.

(By Maubo Chang)


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