Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Constitution must stay current

After his announcement on Sunday that he would push for a new Constitution for Taiwan in 2006, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday addressed the subsequent suspicions and criticism during a meeting of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Central Standing Committee. Chen again stressed that Taiwan has an urgent need for a new Constitution.

His remarks are expected to trigger heated debate among the nation's political parties and in the media, which could pave the way for resolving the political chaos that has beset Taiwan for many years.

Questions regarding the suitability of the current Constitution, which was enacted in China in 1947, have been part of the political scene since Taiwan's first direct presidential election in 1996. The Constitution has since been amended six times, but major questions regarding the country's reforms were repeatedly sidelined due to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) various political considerations. As a result, the DPP government has been unable to fulfill its major campaign promises regarding political reforms, due to its lack of a majority in the legislature.

As Chen pointed out, questions regarding legislative reforms -- such as reducing the number of seats by half and setting up a single-member district system -- need to be resolved quickly. The same is true for questions such as whether a plurality or absolute majority system should be adopted for presidential elections, whether to adopt a parliamentary or presidential system and whether to have a five-branch or three-branch government. Only then can the country achieve political stability, instead of running into partisan quarrels on the legislative floor over the same old political issues every year, which creates a chaotic impression of Taiwan's politics and leads to public dissatisfaction about the inefficiency of the legislature.

Although political considerations play a role in Chen's raising of the Constitution issue at this point, if Taiwan does not resolve these major constitutional issues one by one and move toward an advanced democratic system, the nation's democracy will continue to make a bad impression on the international community and the legislature will become an international laughing stock. This will cause great damage to the dignity of Taiwan and its people. At the same time, the massive government machine will remain as it is now, continuing to suck the people dry of their tax money and pointlessly keeping a large bunch of civil servants who have nothing to do.

A state leader should, of course, present views with foresight, even if reforms conducive to the interests of the public cannot be immediately implemented. However, he has the responsibility to continually remind the people that the problems facing Taiwan's system and government operations now and in the future should be resolved through discussions among a vast majority of the people and by building social consensus to promote a reasonable path to reform.

This is what a responsible government should do. The issues of constitutional amendments and writing a new Constitution should not be viewed as a "Taiwan indepen-dence conspiracy."

In no way is the current Constitution suitable to Taiwan's current status, given the thriving development of democracy and freedom. The Constitution exists to promote the supreme interests of the people. It is not true that the people cannot amend the Constitution or write a new one simply to maintain its integrity. The Constitution, therefore, needs to change along with the times. The pro-unification camp need not panic.

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