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Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Dec. 1 elections: New Party wants Constitution changed

PROPOSAL Several incumbent and would-be legislators want to change the Constitution to mandate that a presidential candidate must win 50 percent of the vote

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Several New Party legislative candidates yesterday suggested a constitution amendment that would require a candidate for the presidency to receive at least 50 percent of the vote in order to take office.

They said the proposed measure would more effectively ensure political stability, as opposed to cutting the legislature by half as the ruling DPP has proposed.

Though lawmakers across party lines expressed a willingness to consider the proposal, many cast doubt on whether such an amendment could be passed any time soon.

"The introduction of a majority test appears more relevant to the pursuit of political stability," said New Party legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), who is seeking a second term in the southern district of Taipei.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has blamed the opposition-controlled legislature for thwarting his policy initiatives over the last 18 months. During stump speeches for DPP legislative candidates, he has promoted a proposal to halve the 225-seat legislature as a way to reduce the legislative log jam.

But Lai attributed the sustained standoff between the executive and legislative branches to the fact that Chen won the presidency with less than 40 percent of the vote last year.

"The lack of majority support accounts for the predicament facing his administration," Lai said, "as people opposing his presidency outnumber his supporters."

The tiny party said it has no objections to proposals to slim down the lawmaking body and switch to a single-member district, two-vote electoral system where extremist candidates are less likely to win seats in the legislature.

Currently, each constituency elects one lawmaker and voters cast only one ballot. However, votes are also tallied on a national, per-party basis and any party that meets the 5 percent threshold can name legislators-at-large based upon the percentage of the vote they received.

New Party Secretary-General Lee Bin-nan (李炳南) said Chen's proposed electoral reform, while helpful, would fail to put an end to malicious partisan feuding. Lee argued that the ultimate cure lies in raising the threshold for winning the presidency so that future heads of state be given more weight.

DPP legislative leader Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that the matter is food for thought and that the ruling party has no preset stance either way.

KMT legislator Huang Hsien-chou (黃顯洲) said that the proposal would tilt the nation's political system to one dominated by the president. "The majority clause, if written into law, would make more sense than the 1997 amendment that took away the legislature's power to confirm the premier."

New Party legislative leader Levi Ying (營志宏) said it is time the nation sort out its political system -- parliamentary or presidential -- so the government can function effectively, but he doubted that such an amendment would be passed any time soon, because the major parties will always prioritize their own interests.

It is unlikely that any single party will win a majority of the votes in a presidential poll, Ying noted.

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