TAIWAN'S cabinet yesterday approved draft rules governing the island's first direct presidential elections, to be held next spring. The proposed 'Statute on the Election and Recall of the President and Vice-President' will now be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for approval. However, legislators in the Yuan, including those from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and New Party, along with mavericks in the ruling Kuomintang, are expected to call for significant amendments. Key points in the draft bill include the holding of government-sponsored televised debates; a limit on spending to about NT$300 million (HK$92 million); and provisions for Republic of China citizens who now live abroad to return and cast ballots. The bill adopts a 'relative majority' system to determine the winner, who will need support from at least 20 per cent of eligible voters to win. There are also stiff penalties for offences including election-related violence or intimidation, campaign involvement by gangs, foreigners or mainland Chinese, vote fraud and the fomenting of political disorder. In an unusually raucous session, several points in the draft bill were hotly debated. The most controversy occurred over an article stating that petitions to put independent or minor party candidates on the presidential ballot are to be signed and verified at local government offices instead of being collected by the candidates' backers privately and submitted for verification. A number of political figures, including former Judicial Yuan president and potential candidate Lin Yang-kang, have criticised this article as unfair and likely to discourage voters from signing such petitions.