Taiwanese voters turned their backs on UN membership referendums yesterday, as both proposals failed to pass amid low turnout. The referendums failed to reach the benchmark of half of nearly 18 million eligible voters, the election commission announced last night. They had been put forward by the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party, and were criticised by Beijing and Washington. The DPP referendum asked voters to decide if the island should join the UN under the name of Taiwan; the KMT's referendum asked if they thought Taiwan should rejoin the world body as the Republic of China -Taiwan's official title. Both referendums had turnout rates of about 35 per cent, compared with nearly 76 per cent in the presidential vote, according to the commission. The majority of the 6 million people who cast ballots in the referendums voted 'yes'. In order for a referendum to pass, the number of supporters had to exceed 8.65 million - half the registered voters. Many voters refused even to pick up referendum ballots, which were available in the polling stations. Those who did not vote in the referendums included former KMT chairman Lien Chan, James Soong Chu-yu - his running mate in the 2004 presidential poll - and former president Lee Teng-hui. Outside a polling station yesterday, president-elect Ma Ying-jeou was asked about the poor participation in the referendums. He said it was up to voters to decide whether to participate.