Sat, Mar 13, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Seat reduction vote slated for March 19

REFORMS Legislators yesterday agreed to vote on a bill that would reduce the number of seats in parliament one day before the presidential election

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

A number of DPP legislators yesterday wave placards inside the Legislative Yuan, claiming that they are the real contributors to the nation's legislative reforms. Their placards read ``legislative reform,'' ``halving the legislature,'' ``pass the sunshine bill first'' and ``single-member district, two-vote system.''

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Legislative Yuan yesterday agreed to vote next week -- one day before the presidential election -- on a bill that would slash in half the number of seats in the 225-member parliament.

But several opposition lawmakers accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of rushing the decision on a major constitutional revision to attract voters in the March 20 presidential poll.

Legislative caucuses yesterday morning reached agreement that the constitutional amendment would get its second and third reading on March 19.

The caucuses also demanded that the Constitutional Amendment Committee expedite the process for reviewing other articles, including one that would abolish the National Assembly, which convenes only when constitutional reforms or national boundary changes have been passed by the legislature by a three-quarters majority or when a move to impeach the president or vice president has been passed by a two-thirds majority.

The legislature also agreed to hold an additional session on March 18 to discuss the bill governing political donations.

The Constitutional Amendment committee approved a draft bill on Wednesday that said parliament should be reduced to 113 seats in 2008.

It also agreed that legislators' terms should be extended from three years to four.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislators Apollo Chen (陳學聖) and Hsu Chung-hsiung (徐中雄), and People First Party (PFP) Legislator Sheu Yuan-kuo (許淵國) have started a petition drive to cancel the decision to vote on the amendment.

"We want all the articles to be fully discussed and reviewed by the Constitutional Amendment Committee first," Chen said regarding the purpose of the petition.

"Rushing the article through before March 20 is irresponsible and amounts to breaking the political speed limit," Hsu said.

"Many legislators disagree with the constitutional amendment, but they are too afraid to speak up. The real problem with the legislature does not lie in the number of seats, but rather in its quality, and to improve the quality, we should focus on the election system and constituency," he said.

Some DPP legislators agreed that it is necessary to pass all the constitutional amendments in the committee before sending them back to the legislature, and that the legislative reform should be more comprehensively discussed, but they still supported passing the articles before the election.

"The article that was passed on Wednesday was not comprehensive enough. The committee did not consult the experts' opinions The legislative procedure for the amendment is problematic," said DPP legislator Chen Chin-te (陳金德).

"Although I think the current articles can be improved, I would still like to have the article on halving the legislative seats passed before the election, otherwise there is no knowing what will happen to the amendment," said DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠).

Although Lee attended Chen, Hsu and Sheu's press conference, he did not sign their petition.

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