Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Chen's reforms: 'mission possible'

By Chiou Chwei-liang 邱垂亮

The consolidation of democracy in Taiwan has suffered because the blue camp could not accept their defeat in the March 20 presidential election, and could not resist the opportunity offered by the assassination attempt on the president and the vice president on March 19 to launch a protest movement with the slogan "no truth, no president." The movement has arranged repeated street protests and created disorder, which has made it difficult to consolidate Taiwan's democracy.

The presidential election highlighted the fact that Taiwan's democratization process is fraught with problems. In the final analysis, however, the most fundamental problem is the national identity crisis, and the biggest systemic and structural problem is the confusion within the system of constitutional government and difficulties in its operation.

Regarding constitutional reform, Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Presidential Office secretary-general, a few days back visited the author Po Yang (柏楊) to discuss the matter. The visit was the first stop on Su's quest to gather opinions regarding constitutional reform from every level and sector of society, including each opposition party.

Having said that constitutional reform is not the exclusive preserve of one party, he will invite representatives of each opposition party, judicial circles, academia and every level of society to discuss the issue together in order to solicit a wide range of opinions.

During the presidential election campaign, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) promoted the idea that a new constitution should be completed by 2006 and implemented after the inauguration of the next president in 2008. In his May 20 inauguration speech, he pointed out that most articles in the current constitution no longer meet Taiwan's current and future needs, and that he therefore was initiating a constitutional reform project.

Domestic and international pressure caused Chen to retreat from his pre-election promotion of writing a new constitution. Instead, since the election he has promoted reform to amend the current constitution, thereby creating a "new" constitution that is in step with the times and that fits today's Taiwan without changing its national title, flag, anthem or territory -- which would continue to include the Chinese mainland, Outer Mongolia and Tibet). He has clearly sent himself on a "mission impossible."

However, we believe Chen to have the sincerity, strength of purpose and ability to make this "mission impossible" possible. If anyone is able to do so, it is Chen, and no one else. We are all waiting in anticipation.

Constitutional reform is the biggest political project a nation can undertake. Chen has to work hard, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has to work hard and so do the people. The success of Su's quest for opinions will therefore depend on Chen and the DPP as well as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and all the people of Taiwan. This is difficult, and we can understand and recognize that difficulty.

However, although the four opposition parties all agreed on it during the presidential election campaign, they now seem to have forgotten everything about halving the number of legislative seats and the single-member district, double-ballot system, which are both more easily accomplished if implemented together. Even Chen and the DPP have backtracked and reneged on policies, which certainly is both disappointing and unacceptable.

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