Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 8 News List

'Second Republic' a second chance

By Hsu Yung-ming 徐永明

At a recent birthday dinner for former presidential advisor Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) raised the prospect that future constitutional reform could take the direction of forming a "Second Republic." His comments garnered a great deal of attention -- and skepticism from politicians and the media. Some believed the president raised the issue to deflect attention from the investigation into his special allowance fund, and others said he had no chance of completing such a task in the year-and-a-half left in his term.

Although the response was not warm, political leaders in and outside of Taiwan are all carefully awaiting Chen's next move because of his success in pushing for a referendum law as well as a constitutional amendment enshrining the institution of the referendum in the Constitution. He also overcame the restrictions inherent in his "four noes" to freeze the National Unification Council and national unification guidelines.

In addition, the North Korean nuclear test and the resulting tensions in East Asia create an international environment conducive to Taiwan's adopting a new constitution, because Pyongyang's threat means the US is likely to need Taiwan more than ever before.

At the same time, constititional topics accentuate the main difference between the pan-blue and pan-green's political stances. The pan-blues are clearly intent on ousting Chen and incriminating his family. The pan-greens have spotlighted institutional reform. In the past they pushed for direct election of the president and the right to elect the entire legislature, and now their focus includes the Constitution and referendums. All these topics revolve around institutional changes.

Former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) later call for a new constitution and name rectification are also aimed at normalizing the country's status. In the long term, this focus has a strong impact on the image of blue and green alike.

The media and pan-blues largely brushed off the discussion on the Second Republic, and conspiritorial analyses abound. Very few discussions mention the necessity and urgency of the Second Republic concept to the nation. In the past, the pan-blue camp has had exactly the same hesitant reaction to referendums and constitutional reform.

Now the pan-blue camp's attitude could become even more conservative in consideration of KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) expected 2008 presidential bid. However, in their eagerness to regain power, the KMT might also try to be more accomodating to public opinion.

All political parties should take surveys to see how voters feel about constitutional reform after suffering through so much partisan conflict.

More importantly, the concept of a "Second Republic" could both extend the Republic of China and offer a clean break from the Constitution. It offers an ingenious way of getting around the framework set by the "four noes" pledge and satisfy the need for a new constitution for Taiwan.

In particular, this would be in the same spirit as Chen's decision to "freeze" the unification guidelines instead of abolish them. Using an explanatory foreword to maintain the symbolic status of the guidelines didn't violate the "four noes" pledge, but it still indirectly broke through the limits imposed by Chen's promise.

It doesn't matter how much the Constitution is amended. Abolishing the previous amendments and returning to the original version could be considered a "second constitution."

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