Fri, May 23, 2014 - Page 8 News List

The push for constitutional reform

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) approval rating has dropped to about 9 percent and his major policies are repeatedly blocked or overturned after street protests. The political deadlock remains unchanged, Ma’s stooges are given jail sentences and the legislative chamber was occupied by student protesters.

However, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) insists that there is no constitutional crisis and the Ma administration refuses to hold a constitutional conference.

Earlier this month, The Economist called Ma “a lame duck with two years to run.”

“More and more, Taiwan’s future could be decided on the streets,” it said, as: “The street protests reflect widespread disillusion with the weakness of Taiwan’s political institutions.”

Although the political system is the source of the chaos, Ma’s administration refuses to push for constitutional reform.

When the conflict between Ma and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) erupted last year, some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians called it a constitutional crisis, but they focused mainly on Ma’s attempt to remove Wang as speaker, which might have violated the spirit of the Constitution, but not the political system itself. That is why they urged Ma to follow the Constitution.

A few people said that the problem was the constitutional system itself, but they were retired politicians who received little media attention. It was not until the students and academics in the Sunflower movement requested that the government hold a citizens’ constitutional conference that DPP leaders called for constitutional reform.

Quite a few Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians agree that a conference should be held, but dare not discuss it in public, while Ma and Jiang are adamantly opposed to the idea.

Over the past two years, it seems it has become the rule for politicians of every stripe and color to remain non-committal on the issue. When asked, almost all say that they have not heard that the public is in favor of it.

Constitutional reform has been almost completely excluded from public debate. However, this does not mean that the public is not affected by political deadlock. After witnessing years of vicious political conflict, even the most dull-witted people have an opinion about the situation. A recent opinion poll found that the public feels strongly about the situation.

Perhaps we can compare this poll with two others, on the cross-trait service trade agreement and the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao (貢寮) District, New Taipei City, respectively.

According to a poll conducted by TVBS, 38 percent of respondents oppose the signing of the service trade pact, while 32 percent support it. Due to their discontent with the closed-door negotiation process, 51 percent of respondents supported the student occupation of the legislative chamber, while 38 percent were opposed to it.

According to a poll about canceling the nuclear plant project, 60 percent of respondents supported cancelation, while 25 percent opposed it, a support rating high enough to set off a powerful popular movement.

How about constitutional reform? Sixty-nine percent of respondents supported it, while 22 percent were opposed. In addition, 69 percent of respondents said that the current system is unable to resolve significant disputes, while 22 percent said that it is able to do so.

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