Taiwanese voters participating in islandwide local elections on Nov. 24 will need to wrestle with 10 referendums, including some that may affect relations with mainland China and Japan. The flurry of ballot questions owes to legislative changes enacted by President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to carve out a larger role for the public in politics. But these pro-democratic reforms may end up hindering the government’s efforts to make policy. Revisions to the Referendum Act approved by lawmakers last December cut the number of signatures needed to put a question on the ballot to 1.5% of eligible voters from 5%. Referendums can now pass if they are supported by at least 25% of eligible voters — down from 50% — in addition to outnumbering those who oppose the proposals. One referendum asks whether Taiwan should maintain a ban on imports of food from five Japanese prefectures around the site of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
A referendum aimed at putting same-sex marriage further out of reach in Romania was invalidated Sunday after a quick tally showed too few voters cast ballots, election officials said. The weekend vote on a constitutional amendment that would have changed the definition of family to make marriage a union between a man and a woman instead of between “spouses” required voter turnout of at least 30 percent for the result to stand. Election officials said after polls closed that only 20.41 of eligible voters participated. The turnout threshold never was close to being reached all day, a trend that gay rights group Accept said showed citizens “want a Romania based upon democratic values.” “We have shown that we cannot be fooled by a political agenda that urges us to hate and polarize society,” the group said in a statement before the turnout number was final.
Romanians will be asked this weekend whether they want to redefine marriage as only being between a man and a woman rather than “two spouses”, in a referendum that LGBT activists say is fuelling homophobia. The result will have little practical effect, given that same-sex marriage is not legal in Romania, and critics of the referendum, which was brought by a conservative NGO called Coalition for the Family, say it has been seized upon by politicians as a distraction tactic. “The idea is to distract public attention from corruption allegations, and they are doing it at the expense of the LGBT community,” said Teodora Ion-Rotaru of Accept, a rights organisation. She said there had been an increase in hate speech over the past two weeks, worsening an already difficult situation for the LGBT people in a very conservative country.
Macedonia: A referendum on Macedonia’s new name fails to settle anything – One step forward, two steps back in Skopje | The Economist
IT HAD been billed as the most important vote in the region’s recent history, a referendum in favour of settling a long-standing dispute between Greece and Macedonia. Instead, voters have opened the door to instability and uncertainty. The vote, held on September 30th in Macedonia, which aimed to endorse an historic compromise agreement between the two countries over Macedonia’s name, has instead thrown the deal into question. It is on life support. But Ana Petruseva, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Macedonia, says “it is not dead yet.”
Tens of thousands of Catalans congregated in Barcelona on Monday to mark the first anniversary of the region’s unilateral and illegal independence referendum as groups of pro-independence activists blocked roads, motorways and a high-speed rail line and surrounded the Catalan parliament. Police in the city estimated that about 180,000 people took part in a rally in the city on Monday evening. Tensions flared between police and protesters as some hardline demonstrators jumped over barriers at the entrance to the parliament. There were similar scenes outside the Barcelona headquarters of Spain’s national police. Crowds of students filled the city’s central square on Monday afternoon, waving yellow, red and blue separatist flags and chanting “1 October, no forgiving, no forgetting”. Nearby, others let off smoke bombs and fireworks.
A referendum on changing Macedonia’s name as part of a deal that would pave the way for NATO membership won overwhelming support Sunday, but low voter turnout highlighted the hurdles that still remain for the Balkan country to join the alliance. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev had hoped for a strong show of support in the referendum on whether to accept a June deal with Greece changing the country’s name to North Macedonia. That would help him with the next step of winning parliamentary support for the required constitutional amendments.
President Gjorge Ivanov has called for voters to boycott an upcoming referendum on Macedonia’s name change, saying the country was being asked to commit “historical suicide.” “Voting in a referendum is a right, not an obligation,” Ivanov said on September 27 in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Macedonians are due to go to the polls on September 30 to vote on an agreement its new Socialist government led by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev reached with Greece this year to change the country’s name to North Macedonia. The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Russia on Monday of attempting to influence the outcome of a referendum in Macedonia on changing the country’s name that would open the way for it to join NATO and the European Union. Speaking after talks in Skopje with Macedonia’s leaders, Mattis also said the United States was looking to expand cybersecurity cooperation with the small Balkan country. Macedonians will vote on Sept. 30 on a deal reached in June with neighboring Greece that would change the country’s name to the Republic of Northern Macedonia. Athens insisted on the change in return for lifting its opposition to Skopje joining NATO and the EU.
Within the next 24 hours, anti-LGBTQ groups in Taiwan are expected to make a major announcement: They have reportedly collected enough signatures to put a referendum banning marriage equality on the ballot in November. Last year the Council of Grand Justices ruled that sections of the Taiwan Civil Code limiting marriage to one man and one woman violate the constitution. But unlike the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, the landmark ruling did not serve to legalize marriage equality in the self-governing Chinese territory. The court merely offered its legal opinion. Instead judges gave the legislature two years to either amend the civil code or draft a separate law allowing LGBTQ couples to wed. If the government did not act before that time, marriage equality would automatically become the law of the land.
Colombia: Colombia, the country that voted against a peace process, fails to vote against corruption | Colombia Reports
A referendum that sought to curb rampant corruption in Colombia’s congress failed on a knife’s edge on Sunday after voters failed to turn out. Of Colombia’s 36.4 million voters, less than 12 million cast votes, leaving the referendum 500 thousand votes short for it to be declared valid. The citizens who did vote, overwhelmingly approved the seven anti-corruption measures. More than 99 percent of the voters who did turn up approved the measures. Colombia’s rampant corruption is one of the most common grievances in the South American country, yet it failed to mobilize enough voters to address the problem that is bleeding the national treasury. According to the country’s Inspector General some 10 percent of the national budget gets lost through corruption every year.