Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 1 News List

National Assembly approves reforms

RATIFICATION The body held its final meeting and voted overwhelmingly in favor of a raft of changes to the Constitution, giving its powers to the people

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

National Assembly delegates yesterday put up banners and raise their hands victoriously after ratifying the constitutional amendments.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Amid protests and boycotts staged by smaller parties, the National Assembly yesterday voted in favor of constitutional amendments passed by the Legislative Yuan last August, transferring the assembly's power to ratify constitutional amendments and territorial changes to the people.

"This is a victory for the people," Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidium member who chaired yesterday's sitting, told reporters after the voting. "Under the guidelines of second-phase constitutional amendments set down by the DPP, we will now continue down the road of constitutional reform and deepening of democracy."

With one assembly member resigning and another failing to take the oath, the 298-member National Assembly voted 249 to 48, with one invalid ballot, in favor of the constitutional amendment package.

NO MORE ASSEMBLIES

The amendments abolish the National Assembly, and future bills regarding amendments and territorial changes will need to be ratified by the public via referendum after being passed by the legislature.

The amendment also halves the number of legislative seats from the current 225 down to 113 and adopts a "single-member district, two vote" system for legislative elections starting in 2008. At that time, lawmakers' terms will also be increased from three to four years.

The 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 of the Legislative Yuan. The consent of two-thirds of the legislature is required to pass the resolution.

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

Before the voting, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the People First Party (PFP) and other small parties, such as the Chinese People's Party and the civic alliance led by Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), tried to boycott the sitting by occupying the podium to prevent Deputy Legislative Speaker Chung Jung-chi (鍾榮吉) from delivering a report on the amendments.

Holding placards reading "ridiculous constitutional amendments will create more trouble for a million years," the TSU's 21 assembly members called on other delegates to make a note on their ballots to voice their opposition to the constitutional amendments.

The PFP's 18 delegates, chanting "opposing crude constitutional amendments" and holding placards reading "illegal to show ballots," protested to Yeh that no PFP delegates were chosen to supervise the voting.

PFP members then started pounding on tables and chanting slogans on the stage, including "long live the Republic Of China," leaving the pro-independence TSU stunned.

`DISRESPECT'

New Party delegate Chou Yang-san (周陽山) even filed a motion to unseat DPP delegate Yeh. The TSU gave its endorsement, claiming that Yeh disrespected smaller parties and failed to handle the sitting impartially because Yeh had refused TSU delegate Annie Lee's (李安妮) request to speak about her resignation from the presidium.

Despite the support of the TSU, the PFP and other smaller parties for the proposal, the assembly, dominated by the DPP and KMT, voted against Chou's proposal. A second round of voting also rejected the motion, with only 48 delegates voting in favor. The sitting was delayed for about an hour before the main vote took place.

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