Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Constitutional reforms must continue

The National Assembly has successfully ratified constitutional amendments which, among other things, mandate the assembly's permanent dissolution. This is the seventh round of constitutional revision in the last 14 years, and the final round to be presided over by the National Assembly.

The National Assembly's right to amend the Constitution -- including the definition of national boundaries -- will be given to the legislature, and such changes will be ratified by a national vote. Its right to initiate an impeachment of the president and vice-president will now also be passed on to the legislature, with such cases to be decided by the Council of Grand Justices.

Other achievements of this last National Assembly include extending the term for legislators from three to four years to coincide with the terms of the President and Vice-President. The right of women to participate in politics is further bolstered, with 50 percent quotas for legislators-at-large and overseas Chinese legislators from all parties. The reduction of the legislature from 225 to 113 seats starting from 2008 is a punishment meted out by voters to Taiwan's lazy and irresponsible legislators. But because of the smaller numbers of seats, the legislature will become more vulnerable to manipulation by financial interests.

The adoption of the single-member district, two vote system for the election has been criticized by Taiwan's smaller parties, for the single-member district works to the advantage of the larger parties. Critics say that it will lead to a face-off between the two large parties in which the voice of smaller parties is drowned out, reducing the diversity of opinion. Supporters of the system say that under the the new system, legislators will be more representative of the electorate, and the legislature will be led by politicians with strong roots in local communities. This will make it difficult for political extremists to get elected, and the political parties will have to show greater respect for local opinion.

We believe the purpose of a constitution is to ensure and uphold the highest interests of all citizens. Therefore, the articles of the Constitution must be amended according to the changing needs of the people, with a new constitution created if necessary. Although the amendment of the Constitution has achieved substantial results, it is regrettable that due to the requirement that amendments in the future be ratified by a three-quarters legislative majority, we now have one of the highest thresholds in the world for changing the Constitution. Even if proposals surmount this barrier, they then need the consent of half the total electorate. This makes some people pessimistic about the feasibility of the next round of constitutional reform.

But constitutional reform must continue if Taiwan's constitutional chaos is to be resolved. According to the Presidential Office's proposal, the next round of constitutional revision will help determine whether the country should have a three-branch or five-branch government, and clarify whether the executive branch is a presidential or cabinet system. It will also address issues that are closely related to peoples' everyday lives, such as the abolition of the Taiwan Provincial Government, the lowering of the voting age, reduction in the length of mandatory military service, inclusion of labor rights in the constitution and Aboriginal welfare.

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