Sun, Jun 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Constitutional reform is difficult

By the Liberty Times editorial

The amendments put to vote by the National Assembly have been approved. All the political parties had voted in accordance with their declared positions of either opposing or supporting these amendments, fully living up to their promises to the voters.

As a result, the National Assembly has become a thing of the past, since one of the amendments was to abolish the assembly. In addition to expressing satisfaction, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) also seized the opportunity to declare the start of a second-phase of constitutional reform.

He also emphasized the fact that the abolishment of the National Assembly suggests that the conservative and rigid beliefs about the Constitution had been broken, and that the country was fully prepared for comprehensive amendments of the Constitution.

He expressed the hope that the opposition and ruling camps cast aside their differences and work together for a second time to complete the second phase of reform.

Before the National Assembly's approval of the amendment to the Constitution, all kind of disputes had led to talk about whether the amendment could be passed without a hitch, suggesting unpredictability about the final result. In the end, the parties proved to the people that they can live up to their promises, indicating that they can still be trusted by the people. This is indeed most encouraging.

As for the amendments' impacts on Taiwan's political developments, there are both up sides and down sides. An irreconcilable gap appears to still exist between ideals and reality. It is hard to conclude whether the design and operation of the existing political systems had been improved for the better. Further observation is required.

Regardless of the people's varying views about the accomplishments or faults of these amendments, Chen declared that they are only the beginning, rather than the end. According to Chen, he will appoint Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun to facilitate and push for the organization of a constitutional and political reform committee, and to invite people from all sectors to work for a consensus over the scope and procedure of the second-phase of constitutional amendment in 2008.

The contents of the second phase of proposed reforms revealed by Chen do not involve territory, sovereignty or title of the country. Instead, they deal with the governmental system; trimming the government to three branches, supplemental measures for legislative reforms; the abolishment of the provincial government; lowering the voting age; abolishing the military conscription system; incorporating basic workers' rights into the Constitution; creating a chapter on Aboriginal rights; and strengthening human rights. In other words, the intention is to tailor and customize the Constitution -- which was founded on the concept of Greater-China framework -- to suit the practical needs of Taiwan.

Obviously the underlying ideals are far reaching and the reform goal is to deal with the predicaments that Taiwan currently faces yet must resolved. However, procedure-wise, these proposed amendments are destined for failure. We say this not because we disagree with Chen's ideals or because we hope that the amendments will fail.

First, according to the recently approved amendments to the Constitution, in the future, all amendments to the Constitution or constitutionally-defined territories of the country will require the following: A proposal endorsed by one-fourth of the Legislative Yuan members; the approval of the bill by three-fourths of the attending legislators; a quorum of three-fourths of the Legislative Yuan. These thresholds at the legislature are very high to begin with.

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