Friday, October 30, 2009

Watershed casino vote reaffirms Taiwan’s democracy (Taiwan Today)

On September 26, Penghu County residents voted on whether to allow casino developments in international standard hotels and resorts planned for the outlying region, which consists of 90 islands and islets.

The issue aroused the interest of people throughout the ROC, with the manner in which the referendum was conducted and its eventual result seen as having significant implications for the nation’s democratic development.

Out of Penghu’s 73,651 registered voters, just over 42 percent cast ballots, with 17,359, or 56.44 percent, against the proposal and 13,397, or 43.56 percent, in support. The result came as a surprise to those who assumed that securing a “yes” vote in the referendum was a sure bet. After all, Penghu’s pro-gambling faction was backed by international and local business interests, as well as the central government and several local politicians.

However, not everyone connected with the ruling Kuomintang supported the plan. On September 17, Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien, an individual whose views carry significant moral weight, said a “disaster” would strike Penghu if casinos were allowed to open there.

Echoing Wang’s remarks, Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen urged Penghu’s voters to reject gaming September 21. But it was a coalition of non-governmental organizations and religious groups that deserves credit for the upset.

By rebutting several of the claims made by the pro-gambling side, and bringing in experts from overseas whose statements were widely quoted by the local media, the coalition was able to undermine casino proponents’ core argument that gaming would bring economic benefits for the majority of residents...

The entire commentary is here. For me and many people I know, the result of the referendum was a surprise, but a delightful one.

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