Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen seeks plebiscite on Constitution

`BY THE PEOPLE' The president said a new Constitution is needed to strengthen the nation's democracy and criticized the KMT's record on constitutional reform

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

After calling on Sunday for the birth of a new Constitution in 2006, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday constitutional changes should be decided by the people of Taiwan through a referendum.

"The structure of the constitutional framework can't be decided solely by the president himself or a party, but needs the participation of the people of the country," he said. "The final version of the new Constitution has to be decided by the people directly through a referendum."

Chen made the comments prior to the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) weekly closed-door Central Standing Committee meeting yesterday.

He said the country needs a new Constitution in 2006 to deepen democracy and pursue a more efficient constitutional structure 10 years after the first direct presidential election was held in 1996, a symbol that will ensure Taiwan's sovereignty.

"If the direct presidential election in 1996 is a symbol of Taiwan's sovereignty as a democratic country, this `complete' state will become 10 years old in 2006. After 10 years of democratic practice, we must think about what we are going to pursue in the next phase," Chen said.

"We must deepen democracy and pursue a more efficient constitutional structure to lead the people of Taiwan to face the challenges of the new century," he said.

Chen added that previous constitutional amendments were targeted at individual issues and resulted in disorderly and partial adjustments.

"There was no way to fix it once and for all and therefore many problems remain unresolved," Chen said.

He said political and social adjustments require changes to the Constitution, which would greatly affect the rights and obligations of the people as well as national competitiveness.

Chen said these adjustments include reducing by half the number of legislative seats, adopting a two-vote system in a single electoral district and choosing between a presidential system and a Cabinet system.

"A national leader must think ahead to make citizens' pay attention to this issue and promote civic consciousness," he said. "This historic mission bestowed on every national leader can't be treated as a `boring' matter."

He was responding to criticism from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) on Monday that Chen's ideas on a new Constitution were "boring."

Chen yesterday said the DPP will not repeat the mistakes of the former KMT government, which dominated work on previous constitutional changes.

"We think successful constitutional change would incorporate people's will, consensus among political parties and opinions from constitutional experts," Chen said.

Chen's speech yesterday did not mention his "Five Nos" promise: no declaration of independence, no change in the nation's title, no referendum to change the status quo, no incorporating the "special state-to-state" theory in the Constitution and no abandoning the National Reunification Council.

DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said yesterday that Chen's announcement did not contradict his "Five Nos" policy and that the DPP's stance on the sovereignty issue, including whether to change the country's name, is based on the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future." The resolution, made in 1999, stated that any change to the status quo should be decided by the people of Taiwan.

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