Mon, Dec 22, 2014 - Page 8 News List

The LIBERTY TIMES EDITORIAL: Genuine reform requires sincerity

In the wake of the nine-in-one elections, people throughout the country are baying for reform, and the political parties are offering all kinds of thoughts and ideas about what a constitutional government should look like.

The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) recent electoral rout is largely attributable to dissatisfaction with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). Not only does he wield power in his capacity as president, he also had control over the legislature by virtue of the fact that he was also KMT chairman, as the party enjoys a legislative majority. Regardless, he stands in opposition to the prevailing public mood on many issues.

Few would argue that given the outcome of the elections, the public was clearly targeting the presidency and the legislature. This is what we could term a “constitutional moment,” one that the nation needs to seize: It is an opportunity that cannot be missed for us to change a system of constitutional government that simply does not work.

The sheer number and variety of ideas for reform forthcoming from all quarters has been quite dazzling. The Constitution is the country’s most fundamental law, encapsulating sovereign power at its essence, but also concerning the operation of day-to-day political life.

What is required is a constitution drafted by Taiwanese, for Taiwan. Many people want a new constitution, a rectification of the nation’s name and progress toward making Taiwan operate like a regular country. However, due to practical considerations and external pressure, what political parties and politicians are putting on the table are mainly mere constitutional amendments, hoping to revise the existing Constitution to reform the system of constitutional government on behalf of the country and the people who live in it.

Aside from the difference between drawing up a new constitution and amending the existing one, everyone has their own ideas about how changing the system should be carried out. Due to the general sense of disillusionment with how the president and the legislature operate together, the debate on reform has taken the form of a discussion on whether we should adopt a presidential system or a Cabinet system.

The nation has operated a presidential system for many years. It has been in place through five direct elections. In the beginning, it consolidated national consciousness and declared this to the international community.

Ma has abused his office, to widespread condemnation. However, there is nothing the public can do, as he has a fixed term in office and the threshold for recall is too high. He has overstepped his powers and he is not subject to oversight. This has been exacerbated by Beijing’s increasingly brazen interference in the presidential election process. All of this means that there need to be changes made to the presidential system as it stands.

This is why there have been calls for a shift to a Cabinet system. These calls have been taken more seriously after New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who is standing for the KMT chairmanship following Ma’s resignation, expressed support for the idea.

Another issue that has been given attention together with the discussion of a Cabinet system is reform to the way legislators are elected. In particular, the election of district legislators and legislators-at-large, and the way constituencies are drawn up are inappropriate. This results in blocked smaller parties and creates a situation where the weight and value of votes differ depending on where you live.

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