Mon, Sep 25, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen proposes change of Constitution

RED HERRING? Beset by problems the president sought yesterday to drag up an old theme in an effort to gain support, while opposition parties scorned his suggestions

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH STAFF WRITER AND CNA

Seeking to draw attention away from the protests seeking his ouster, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday went on the offensive and said that the Constitution needed to be amended or changed altogether.

The topic of constitutional re-engineering has been a consistent, controversial theme during Chen's second term. Opposition parties are against any radical changes in the Constitution, and China and the US have in the past warned of what they view as the possible destabilizing effects of any constitutional change.

unlikely

Any constitutional amendment requires the approval of two-thirds of the legislature, and the opposition parties have refused to budge on Chen's proposed additional constitutional re-engineering. It is extremely unlikely, therefore, that Chen will be able to make any of the changes he recommended

Addressing a forum organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to discuss constitutional reform in Taipei yesterday morning, Chen said that if the country wants to change its governmental system from a semi-presidential system, it has to fully adopt a parliamentary or a presidential system.

"No matter which government system we are going to adopt, it has to be clear and specific, unlike the one we have now," he said. "We can no longer pick one system that is only beneficial to one party, randomly piece it together and exchange it for one party's political interests."

Chen also urged the public to consider whether it was time to change the territorial definitions of Taiwan.

"Some people say that the territorial boundaries must cover Outer Mongolia and mainland China; some have also argued that they must cover Europe, Asia and Africa," he said. "The People's Republic of Mongolia and People's Republic of China both have UN seats; they are two different countries that do not have any affiliation with Taiwan."

HISTORY

The Constitution of the Republic of China, which was enacted in 1946 and promulgated in 1947, does not clearly define the "existing national boundaries." An interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices in 1993 failed to define the politically highly sensitive issue.

The former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration used to claim sovereignty over China, Tibet and Mongolia, a stance that caused tension between Taiwan and the three parties.

Chen said that the time of constitutional reform conducted by political elites was over, and without grassroots participation and public support, any future constitutional reform was doomed to failure.

"In order to facilitate constitutional reforms, future administrations will have to build consensus from the bottom up, rather than impose it from above," he said.

The seven constitutional amendments passed over the past 15 years were testaments to complicated and fierce rivalry among political parties, he said.

Taking the example of cancelation of the legislature's consent of the appointment of the premier, Chen said that it was clearly made to cater to the need of one particular person at one particular time.

Under the premise of maintaining the status quo, Chen said that he was wondering whether the public should tolerate more open discussion about the issue.

Chen said that he reiterated in this year's and last year's New Year addresses that Taiwan is a country and he believed that most people in Taiwan would support this.

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