Tsai keen to see public debate constitutional reform

LEAD THE WAY::In a speech at a forum, the DPP chairperson said that if a consensus is reached on constitutional reform, the nation could then move on to the next stage

By Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporter

Sun, May 01, 2011 - Page 1

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was noncommittal yesterday about constitutional reform, saying she would let the public fully discuss the issue and reach a consensus if she is elected president in January’s election.

Tsai, winner of the DPP’s recent three-way presidential primary, said it was important to deepen Taiwan’s democracy. To reach that goal, it was imperative to strengthen the governmental system, she added.

“I will let the public fully discuss the issue [of constitutional reform] if I’m elected,” she said on the sidelines of a forum held to mark the 20th anniversary of the abolition of the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款).

“We will move on to the next stage if a consensus is reached. The most important thing is that the Taiwanese public must think about the issue, discuss it and come to a consensus,” she said.

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who delivered the opening speech at the two-day forum hosted by Taiwan Advocates, the Taiwan Association of University Professors and three local think tanks yesterday, said the operation of the constitutional system in Taiwan was made possible after he nullified the temporary provisions in 1991.

The lifting of the temporary -provisions moved the country toward full elections for all legislative seats in 1992 and helped to bring about Taiwan’s first-ever direct elections for president in 1996.

The move also ended the civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party, he said.

“The direct presidential election in 1996 was a national referendum reflecting the free will of the Taiwanese people,” he said. “It is a serene revolution and it is not easy.”

Lee called on supporters to protect Taiwan’s democracy and reclaim power from the KMT in January’s presidential election, saying only solidarity would help reach the goal. He urged the public to have faith and that the goals of enacting a new constitution, rectifying the name of the country and becoming a normal country would eventually be realized.

Tsai, in her keynote speech, emphasized the importance of sustainable democracy.

Calling the annulment of the temporary provisions “a significant milestone of Taiwan’s development of democracy and national consciousness,” Tsai said it was ironic that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) once vigorously opposed direct presidential elections, but he won the presidential poll in 2008.

The January elections are not only about the success or failure of individuals or competition between political parties, Tsai said, but about people having a say in the direction the nation takes and their expectations for democracy.

She proposed passing “sunshine laws,” to promote fair competition between political parties.

Government information must also be made more transparent, the referendum system made more reasonable and the thresholds for constitutional amendments lowered, she said.