Wed, Dec 28, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: We need a Taiwanese Constitution

On Sunday, while attending the celebration of the 58th anniversary of the enacting of the Constitution of the Republic of China (ROC), Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) pointed out that constitutional change (or "re-engineering") is secondary to the urgent task of realizing the rule of law in Taiwan through operation of the duel-executive system and the establishment of constitutional precedent. Ma agreed that Taiwan faces a constitutional crisis -- but who is responsible for creating this situation?

Ma believes that the crisis stems from the fact that an effective way of implementing the Constitution -- and its provision for five branches of government in particular -- is yet to be found. Given this fact, it is ironic that the pan-blue camp has blocked the review of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) list of nominees for the Control Yuan in the legislature for nearly a year, effectively closing the body down. If they are dissatisfied with certain nominees, they can eliminate these from the list during review, but instead they have simply instituted a boycott on the pretext that the nomination process is flawed. As a legal expert, Ma must surely know that such unconstitutional behavior can only damage constitutional government in this country.

The National Communications Commission (NCC) is a classic example of how the pan-blues abuse their legislative majority to threaten the Cabinet, forcing the Executive Yuan to consider requesting a constitutional interpretation on the matter. In a recent meeting between Ma and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), Soong proposed that Chen submit a new list of Control Yuan nominees that conforms to the principle of how the NCC was formed. This unconstitutional proposal constitutes a raid on the president's powers.

The spirit of the Constitution tends to favor a dual-executive system, with the right to nominate the premier vested in the president. The Constitution has no provision for what to do in the case of an opposition majority, and this still awaits the establishment of precedent. It should not be up to the pan-blue camp to make its own constitutional interpretations and demand that the president hand over his right to nominate the premier, despite a complete lack of precedent for this.

Taiwan's constitutional crisis is not simply a question of implementation, for it is an undisputed fact that in some respects the document presents some serious practical difficulties. The Constitution of the ROC has had a turbulent history, for soon after it was promulgated in 1947, civil war broke out and the Constitution was suspended. After martial law ended, the Constitution went through seven rounds of amendment, but as the document had been drawn up in reference to the vast and populous lands of China, no amount of tinkering could adapt it adequately to the needs of a small island like Taiwan. This is the strongest argument in favor of constitutional reform.

Although the pan-blue boycott on reviewing the nominees for the Control Yuan is absurd, it has highlighted the fact that although this branch of government has basically ceased to function over the last year, it has had little impact. Given this fact, would it not be appropriate to change to a three branch system of government? And as the current duel-executive system has resulted in an impasse that has persisted over many years, should not a solution be sought by altering the Constitution? In 1949 the ROC ceased to exist in all but name, and it cannot effectively speak for the people of Taiwan. Can we continue to ignore this problem? Seven attempts at constitutional amendment have failed to resolve the situation. Isn't it time to forge a new path by changing the nation's title and re-writing the Constitution for Taiwan?

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