Interparty talks on constitutional reform fall apart

ULTERIOR MOTIVES::The KMT accused the DPP of promoting its own agenda in calling for reform, while the DPP said the KMT was distorting the public’s will

By Su Fang-ho and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer and CNA

Tue, Jun 16, 2015 - Page 1

Interparty negotiations on constitutional amendments broke down yesterday, despite attempts at mediation by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were divided because of the KMT caucus’ insistence that the legislature’s power to confirm the premier be bundled with the issue of absentee voting.

The parties had previously achieved consensus on lowering the legal voting age to 18, lowering the threshold for legislators-at-large from 5 percent to 3 percent and guarantees of education for residents of outlying islands.

The DPP blasted the KMT for saying that, if absentee voting were not bundled with legislative powers to approve the premier, it would block all constitutional amendments.

This kind of rhetoric is akin to threatening society to submit to the KMT’s views on constitutional amendments, the DPP said.

No political party should attempt to distort the public’s will by forcibly bundling amendment issues, DPP Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said, adding that the KMT is hampering the nation’s progress by refusing to let individual amendments pass to facilitate constitutional reform.

While DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday called on Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) to exercise her influence within the KMT and stop it from blocking the amendments, KMT Culture and Communications Committee Director-General Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) yesterday said that Tsai and the DPP’s focus on the civil rights of 18-year-olds is too narrow, and does not take into consideration the expectations of the majority of society.

There is more support — 70 percent — for the Legislative Yuan being able to confirm future premiers, Lin said, adding that the DPP should not seek to promote its own political agenda when calling for constitutional amendments.

Lin said 60 percent of the public support absentee voting and 50 percent support lowering the legal voting age, and that the KMT is seeking to preserve the rights of 18-year-old citizens, as some might not be able to vote because they are studying abroad

The KMT hopes to achieve more with its proposal because only a complete and well-thought-out plan would help 18-year-old citizens retain their civic rights and duty to vote in elections, Lin said.

Lin accused Tsai of ignoring popular support for the Legislative Yuan confirming future premiers despite her constant talk about Taiwanese democracy.

Meanwhile, civic organizations pushing for constitutional amendments held news conferences in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday morning criticizing the KMT’s insistence on bundling absentee voting with the right to confirm the premier.

The KMT is hijacking the issue of voting rights of 18-year-olds solely for its own political benefit, the organizations said, urging the party to stop blocking an issue that the public long ago achieved a consensus on.