Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Constitutional reform needs public consensus: Tsai

BOTTOM-UP TASK:The president advocates holding dialogue with other political parties and seeking majority public support to implement constitutional changes

Staff writer, with CNA

President Tsai Ing-wen, gestures with her hands in an interview with Central News Agency yesterday.

Photo: CNA

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday said that constitutional reform is a bottom-up undertaking that should not be initiated by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) without majority public participation.

“One political party by itself is not capable of carrying out such a huge task and we will explore the chances of holding dialogue with other political parties in the next phase,” Tsai said in an interview with the Central News Agency.

Tsai, who is also DPP chairperson, said at the party’s 17th national congress on Sept. 24 that the constitutional reform plan would include issues such as lowering the voting age to 18, codifying human rights and reforming the legislative election system to get rid of unequal vote values and inequitable representation.

Asked whether the reform should include a change to a Cabinet or fully presidential system of government, Tsai said she did not want to impose her personal views on the issue at this stage.

Constitutional reform is a task that should be tackled from the bottom to the top to allow participation by the majority of people, she said.

“Carrying out constitutional reform is like making a garment that must fit the person’s needs,” Tsai said. “It is important to have experienced people taking part in the discussions so that the reform will fit Taiwan’s current needs.”

Turning to the issue of the president giving a state of the nation address in the legislature, Tsai said she would not rule out becoming the first Taiwanese president to do so, if it was something the majority of people wanted.

The Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China states that the president can give a state of the nation address in the legislature.

Asked whether the timing of a constitutional reform referendum would be tied to the election cycle, Tsai said she was not thinking along those lines and that it would all depend on how the issue evolved.

Local government elections are to be held next year, while the presidential and legislative elections are due in 2020.

Addressing a controversy over recent comments by newly appointed Premier William Lai (賴清德), Tsai said Lai is fully aware of the government’s overall policy goals and understands very well “what the limits are.”

On Sept. 26, Lai said in his first report to the legislature that he was “a pragmatic supporter of Taiwanese independence.”

“The two sides of the Taiwan Strait are independent of each other, with Taiwan being an independent sovereign state whose official title is the Republic of China,” Lai said in response to lawmakers’ questions about his views on cross-strait issues.

His comments sparked a firestorm at home and drew attention in the international community, including in China and the US, prompting the Presidential Office to issue a statement that the government had not changed its cross-strait policy.

In a follow-up statement on Friday, Lai said that the president was responsible for cross-strait policy and that in his role as premier, he would adhere to Tsai’s policy of maintaining the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait.

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