Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) yesterday said that it would likely be impossible to promote reforms that would allow the president to double as premier, despite having proposed the idea only a day earlier.
In a Television Broadcasts Satellite interview on Wednesday, Han was asked how he would address the problem of the president having great power without needing to answer to the legislature.
Han said that the president could double as premier and answer directly to the legislature.
Photo: Chen Chien-chih, Taipei Times
“Whether that would happen I cannot say, because that is something experts on the Constitution need to consider, and there is probably a long way to go before we would reach that hypothetical phase,” he added.
The remarks apparently contradicted his earlier statement that, if elected, he would govern the nation from Kaohsiung and meet with the premier once a week.
Asked by reporters to explain the proposal during a recess at the Kaohsiung City Council, Han said: “At this moment it is probably not possible to promote such a system, but the issue could re-emerge many years later when the Constitution is discussed.”
A president who also serves as premier would ensure that they are supervised by a body that is equally as powerful, he said.
He said that he had expected criticism over the issue, but added that the idea is worth considering.
“It is unconstitutional for the president to double as premier,” former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said in a radio interview with Broadcasting Corp of China’s News Radio.
The fact that both Han and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) have proposed reforming the political system shows that it is flawed, he added.
He said he personally supports a parliamentary system and believes that the president should report to the legislature.
Under the current system, the premier is like a CEO who must always claim responsibility for failed policies, while a parliamentary system would create more stability, he added.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also expressed support for a parliamentary system.
Although reform would be difficult, “if elected president, as long as there is a consensus among the public on the issue, I am confident that I could ensure the passage of the constitutional amendment in the legislature,” Wang said.
Gou told reporters while visiting a Taitung steel plant that he would follow through with reform if elected, as many others have abandoned the idea after becoming president.
“I will say this now publicly: If elected, I will define the duties of the parliament and the president within two years of my presidency and I will follow those rules myself,” he said.
Asked to comment on Han’s remark that the president could double as the premier, Gou asked: “What would happen if someone wants to be the president, premier and mayor all at once?”
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said that amending the Constitution would have major implications and needs to be approached with prudence.
She made the remark in response to reporters’ requests for comment on Han’s suggestion, as well as his claim that the Democratic Progressive Party is “against anything Han.”
She urged Han to focus on governing Kaohsiung.
“After all, Mayor Han is the mayor of Kaohsiung... I would like to tell Mayor Han that the president of Taiwan is Tsai Ing-wen,” she said. “So leave presidential matters to me. He can focus on city affairs and provide clear answers to questions at the city council.”
“First, you want to be Kaohsiung mayor, then you want to be president and now you also want to be premier,” former premier William Lai (賴清德) said at a meeting with young Miaoli farmers.
A presidential system is underpinned by the three branches of government, while in a parliamentary system, the Cabinet and the legislature act as one, he said, adding that mixing the two would make the nation’s political system “neither fish nor fowl.”
Additional reporting by Chen Chien-chih and Peng Chien-li
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