Wed, Jun 03, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Amendments prey to politicking

By Liu Ching-yi 劉靜怡

The legislature’s Constitutional Amendment Committee last week started reviewing proposed amendments to the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) boycotted human rights clauses because of procedural issues, blocked proposals on voting rights for 18-year-olds — something that has a high level of support from the KMT, the opposition and the public — and insisted upon including absentee voting, something that should be dealt with on the legal level.

None of this was really aimed at overseeing amendments to the Constitution, which the electorate has assigned them to do: It is more about strategy — and insurance in case the KMT loses the next presidential election.

The former head of the KMT Central Policy Committee has said that “the KMT caucus approves of conducting the constitutional amendments in two stages, but in the first stage, we must deal with lowering the voting age, absentee voting, the legislature’s power to approve the premier and the lowering of the electoral threshold for small parties to secure representation in the legislature. If the amendments are to go ahead, these issues must be dealt with together.”

No prizes for guessing that we are going to see two issues that both sides are actually in agreement on — lowering the voting age and the electoral threshold — being met with obstruction by the KMT caucus in the review meetings.

However, the KMT has yet to provide a legitimate reason, from a constitutional government perspective, for why these four issues should be bundled together for review and passage. Some KMT legislators have said that there is not even any consensus within the caucus on bundling the four.

KMT legislators have taken up three amendment review sessions with this matter, wasting valuable time, introducing all kinds of procedural obstructions and refusing to debate the content of individual versions of amendments, and for what?

Do they really intend to continue in this vein for the next few review sessions, playing these obstructive games and getting in the way of debating the issues at hand? Is this infantile, ridiculous constitutional amendment review process really what the public should expect of this “constitutional moment?”

Despite KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) saying that the KMT and opposition should leave their partisan agendas at the door before they debate constitutional amendment issues, the KMT is insisting on packaging all of the proposed amendments together for a referendum next year. Is this not precisely the very worst example of a party clinging to its partisan agenda?

The KMT’s insistence on incorporating the legislature’s power to approve the premier in the Constitution only goes to demonstrate further the distorted approach of not bundling the issues that should be bundled, while insisting on bundling those that do not need to be.

Until we are clear on how the current system of central government should be altered, before we are sure how the president and premier are to interact within our system, until we know what we are to do about amending the relationship of checks and balances between the legislative and the executive branches of government, what good does it do god or man simply to invest the legislature with the power to approve the premier, within constitutional government theory?

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