Sun, Apr 09, 2000 - Page 1 News List

National Assembly votes to postpone election date

BUYING TIME Deputies decided that it would be best to put off the vote until it was clear whether the Assembly would even exist in its present form in the future

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Instead of cutting to the constitutional amendment chase, National Assembly deputies yesterday bought more time by adopting a non-binding resolution to postpone the May 6 National Assembly re-election.

Central Election Commission (CEC) officials said the election will be held in accordance with the Constitution and election laws, but added that they would call a meeting to discuss how to handle the situation.

The resolution was put forward jointly by the KMT and DPP caucuses, and was passed by a vote of 115 to 29. Deputies from the minority New Party and People First Party were opposed to the move.

Under the resolution, the Assembly is appealing to the Executive Yuan to request the CEC to delay the election until the session is over.

"There will be an answer by May 19 as to whether our efforts at reform have been successful or not," said Liu I-teh (劉一德), chief executive of the DPP caucus. "The postponement is intended to avoid wasting resources [by putting off the vote until it is clear whether the body even be in existence later]."

The May 6 election was set following a March 24 ruling by the Council of Grand Justices which invalidated two constitutional amendments adopted by the Assembly in September 1999 that involved a controversial extension of the deputies' terms.

The constitutional amendment session launched yesterday was a response by KMT and DPP caucuses to the Council of Grand Justices' ruling.

The goal is to marginalize the government body before its term expires on May 19.

Under the reform, the Assembly would become a non-standing body starting May 20, 2000 that would not convene regularly and and would not involve re-election of deputies.

Caught in a bind with little time before May 6 -- and the end of this session set for April 25 -- deputies are trying to buy more time.

"We just need some more time to get things done," explained Tsai Cheng-yuan (蔡正元), secretary-general of the KMT caucus.

DPP deputy Chiu I-pin (邱奕彬) blamed the Council for all the trouble.

"The Grand Justices are to blame for the constitutional chaos," Chiu said. "The fact that they have issued this ruling shows that they don't even have any common sense."

Chiu contends that the Council dragged its feet unnecessarily as an interpretation was requested in September 1999, but a ruling didn't come until March 2000.

One KMT deputy, Hsieh Ming-hui (謝明輝), was even able to get 70 endorsement signature calling for the abolition of the Council of Grand Justices.

The New Party and People First Party caucuses, meanwhile, were against postponing the election.

"Postponing the election will mean extending the term," said New Party deputy Tang A-ken (湯阿根). People First Party deputy Wu Tsang-hai (吳滄海) said the Assembly deputies themselves were really to blame and had shunned any move to quickly reform the Constitution.

"Since the election has already been set, what's the point of trying to amend the Constitution in such a rush?" Wu asked.

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