Tue, Aug 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Constitutional amendment bill passes

DOWNSIZING From 2008 the number of legislative seats will be halved, the National Assembly will be abolished and presidential impeachment guidelines will be altered

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators cheer the smooth passage of the constitutional amendment bill yesterday. The most recent amendment of the Constitution was in 1997 and it was only after that time that the power to amend the Constitution was transferred to the legislature.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The Constitutional amendment bill on legislative reform and downsizing passed in the legislature yesterday, so that from 2008, the nation will adopt the "single-member district, two-vote system" for legislative elections, and there will be only 113 legislative seats.

Of the 201 lawmakers present at the sitting, 200 voted "yes" to legislative reform.

The new changes will take effect during the 7th legislative session -- in 2008 -- during which time lawmakers' tenures would be lengthened from three to four years.

Out of the 113 seats, 73 will be regional lawmakers, with each city and country electing at least one. Plains Aborigines will have three seats, and mountain Aborigines also three.

Legislators-at-large and overseas Chinese legislator seats will comprise 34 seats, which will be distributed to each party according to the proportion of the party votes they obtain.

Only those parties with more than 5 percent of the total votes cast will be given legislator-at-large and overseas Chinese legislator seats, and at least 50 percent of these seats will be reserved for women.

The National Assembly would also be abolished, and after it is abolished, bills regarding constitutional amendments and territory changes will need to be ratified by the public via referendum after being passed by the legislature.

The amendment bill was passed after most parties showed their utmost determination for legislative reform yesterday by sending their top officials to the legislature to communicate with the caucuses and pledge with the public.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) went to the legislature to visit their own caucuses.

The bill included amendments to Articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 8 and 12 of the Additional Articles to the Constitution, in order to abolish the National Assembly, reform the legislature and regulate the methods for impeaching the president and vice president.

Ironically, a National Assembly must be formed via election six months after the amendments are promulgated to ratify the amendments.

The newly-passed amendments also stipulate that when the legislature wants to pass a resolution to impeach the president or vice president, the resolution needs to be proposed by a simple majority, and the consent of two thirds of the Legislative Yuan.

After the resolution is passed, the legislature can ask the Council of Grand Justices to review the resolution in the Constitutional Court, and if the court agrees with the resolution, the official to be impeached will be relieved of his or her title and power immediately.

Before the amendment bill was discussed yesterday, the various caucuses took part in a negotiation session hosted by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to smooth out their differences.

The caucuses finally managed to work out a new version, which basically followed the KMT's original proposal on the amendment, although the alliance of independent lawmakers declared they did not agree to "rushing through" the amendment bill and refused to endorse the negotiated settlement.

Although the alliance lawmakers abstained, the amendment bill still passed according to the negotiation conclusion.

The conclusion on all articles except Article 12 then was considered as a joint proposal by the KMT, the DPP, the PFP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucuses.

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