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Taiwan's opposition calls for scrapping of nuclear plans

Taiwan's parliament building -- the site of a recent student occupation protest -- remains surrounded by demonstrators calling for nuclear expansion plans to be scrapped.

TAIPEI: Taiwan's parliament building -- the site of a recent student occupation protest -- remains surrounded by demonstrators calling for nuclear expansion plans to be scrapped.

The ruling Kuomintang wants to proceed with building a fourth nuclear plant despite majority disapproval among the general public.

The opposition is vigorously opposing the plan as it looks to fuel more discontent with the government, ahead of local elections later this year.

Peace at parliament did not last long after a three-week occupation protest by students ended on April 10.

It is now being surrounded by anti-nuclear demonstrators after a former Democratic Progressive Party leader went on a hunger strike on Tuesday.

Lin Yi hsiung, 73, has refused to eat until plans for Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant are scrapped.

His plight is a populist strategy, with various polls showing as many as 70 per cent of Taiwanese against the construction of Nuke 4.

Prof George Tsai from the Chinese Culture University said: "The DPP wants to keep up the momentum of anti-government sentiment. And by bringing up the controversy over Nuke 4 it can now further fuel public discontent. This will help the DPP's chances of winning the seven-in-one elections at the end of this year."

Politically, it also offers a chance for the pro-independence DPP to extract major concessions from President Ma Ying Jeou.

It is now pushing for a lower threshold for a referendum, which is expected to be held later this year to decide the fate of Nuke 4.

Prof Chang Ya Chung from the National Taiwan University said: "I think its real motive is to use the referendum to deal with future political issues involving cross-strait relations. It would give the public more power to interfere with cross-strait development."

Local elections will take place in November and analysts say the president's approval ratings are slowly being degraded, particularly among disillusioned young and first-time voters.

Prof Chang said: "President Ma's biggest challenge now is that he is quickly losing public trust. So when he talks about public policies, most Taiwanese don't even want to listen to what he has to say. It is a very tough time for the president."

President Ma still has two more years left in office.

As KMT chairman, he will still retain his influence on the party until the year-end elections.

But the outcome of the vote -- hinged on the handling of this issue -- could determine the future of his administration. 

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