Death penalty issue possibly up for referendum
Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai ( ) yesterday proposed holding a referendum on “allowing the death penalty,” to be held on the same day as next year’s presidential election, following recent political discussion over the use of the death penalty.
Tsai said that the capital punishment issue was unable to be solved through “political means,” and should instead be voted on by Taiwanese citizens. He said that while the Ministry of Justice ( MOJ) has consistently said that its stance is to abolish the death penalty, most surveys have shown that the public support the death penalty. Tsai has said the case for a referendum is based on three factors: first, the MOJ has already claimed abolishment of capital punishment as Taiwan’s “ultimate aim” without addressing the need to win the support of society more broadly. Secondly, Tsai said that none of Taiwan’s political leaders have the strength the make a firm stance on the issue, as incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou has said “that Taiwan is not ready to abolish the death penalty,” and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen ( ) said society still required a “consensus.” Third, Tsai has said that putting the death penalty question to a public vote may help increase turnout as it would take place at the same time as the next presidential elections. In response to fellow KMT member, KMT caucus whip Lai Shyhbao ( ) said that while he was “enthusiastic” about the public’s views on the controversial issue, he pointed out that Tsai has yet to officially propose his case, and that combining the referendum with the elections would incur tight time restrictions.
A Ploy to Corner the DPP?
The KMT lawmaker’s intention for a referendum on the death penalty could spell electoral trouble for the DPP.
Anti- capital punishment groups and a portion of the DPP have been burdened by their stance, in the face of a claimed 80 percent of Taiwanese citizens in favor of the death penalty. The DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen has remarked in the past that abolishing the death penalty is a “universal value.”
Local media speculated that by proposing a referendum, Alex Tsai could be hoping to create the impression that “supporting the DPP equates with supporting abolishment of the death penalty” and it could possibly rekindle the urge to vote in even the most disappointed pan-blue supporters, and provide a stronger urge to vote in apathetic citizens.