Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday that the second phase of constitutional reform that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has vowed to pursue -- which he says will create a new constitution suited to Taiwan by 2008 -- will commence as soon as the National Assembly approves a first round of constitutional amendments today.
Su made the remarks yesterday during a tour of Yangmingshan's Chungshan Hall, the meeting place of the National Assembly, to familiarize himself with the voting procedures and exhort DPP delegates to be on time for today's assembly and cast ballots approving the constitutional amendments.
The 300-member assembly, which met for the first time yesterday, is scheduled to vote today on the constitutional amendments passed by the legislature last August. The amendments will halve the size of the legislature and change how it is elected, permanently abolish the National Assembly and make referendums the mechanism for approving future amendments to the Constitution.
Su said the DPP is confident that everything will go smoothly today.
"Although we have 10 delegates on the waiting list and on standby tomorrow in case any delegates are late for the vote, I am confident that none of our 127 delegates will be substituted," Su said.
As for the contents of the second phase of constitutional reforms, Su said that the president will invite legal experts and elites from each political party to form a committee on constitutional reform.
The committee will discuss how to enhance human-rights protection, streamline government and put the Partnership Treaty between the Aboriginal Peoples and Government of Taiwan into the Constitution.
On the question of whether Chen will attend today's vote, the president of the presidium, DPP delegate Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) said yesterday that the DPP will not file a motion to invite Chen to attend and that Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun will supervise the voting process today on Chen's behalf.
Meanwhile, the DPP assembly caucus yesterday also determined that DPP delegates will not receive any salary for their service at the assembly, and asked the assembly's expense audit panel to make public all its expenditures in order to dispel criticism that delegates are wasting taxpayers' money.
"Many of our delegates, most of whom are professionals, cannot accept media reports that describe them as `greedy and lazy' and only caring about what they are going to eat during their meeting," DPP assembly caucus leader Chen Ta-chun (陳大鈞) said yesterday, asking the press to stop criticizing the delegates and instead focus on the amendments.
The DPP yesterday also canceled its participation in the forum on constitutional reforms held at 2pm.
"The reason why we decided not to attend the forum is because we want to shorten the meeting hours and help the forum proceed more smoothly," DPP caucus whip Chen Hui-hsin (陳惠馨) said. "In fact, there is no regulation in the Statute Governing the Operation of the National Assembly (國大職權行使法) stipulating that a forum or discussion should be held."
Chen Hui-hsin said that the DPP had fully conveyed its opinions on the the constitutional reforms throughout the National Assembly elections. However, in order to respect the small parties' desire to voice their opinions, the DPP did not try to block the forum from taking place.
Early in the day, TSU presidium member Annie Lee (李安妮) resigned from her post to protest the assembly's resolution to pass the amendments as one package. Making a last-ditch gesture of opposition to the constitutional amendments, Lee yesterday afternoon ordered each of the TSU delegates to vote against the amendments and urged DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) delegates to annotate their ballots even though they approved the amendments.
The constitutional amendments set to be approved today are expected to benefit the larger parties such as the KMT and DPP, but put smaller parties like the TSU at a distinct disadvantage.
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