Sun, Apr 28, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers at odds over plans to cut size of legislature

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the legislature continuing to be the source of political wrangling, many have renewed calls to reform the body. Though all parties agree on the need to downsize the legislature, they disagree on the magnitude of the cut.

Scholars, meanwhile, find it more urgent to introduce a single-district, two-ballot electoral system.

The ruling DPP caucus has convened several meetings in recent weeks in hopes of ironing out differences among its 89 members over the course of reform. Members have produced 11 versions of a reform proposal.

DPP lawmakers Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) and Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) recommend cutting the number of legislators from 225 to 120. Colleagues Lin Feng-hsi (林豐喜), Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) and Chen Chin-de (陳金德) favor a legislature whose size ranges from 146 to 150 seats. Still others, such as Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) and Chen Chung-shin (陳忠信), put the ideal number of legislators at 200.

In the run-up to the legislative elections last December, the party made halving the size of the legislature its top campaign promise.

"We hope to come up with a unified version before the end of the session," DPP lawmaker Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) said. "To that end, we will continue to bridge our gaps."

The party's ally, the TSU, has drafted a bill to cut the number of lawmakers to 113, in keeping with a campaign promise of its own.

Though not as eager in pushing for such reform, the opposition KMT has said a smaller legislature is what the general public wants. Similarly, the PFP has said it can live with a legislature of no less than 100 members.

To improve the legislature, the opposition alliance contends it is necessary to amend the election rules to help screen out undesirable candidates.

Since the size of the legislature is protected by the Constitution, any reform attempt must have cross-party support. Three-fourths approval from the legislature is needed to initiate any constitutional reform bill. It is then up to the National Assembly to ratify the proposal.

Laws for the organization and function of the assembly have yet to pass the legislature.

Wu Tung-yeh (吳東野), a political scientist from National Chengchi University, said that to avoid controversy, it is more practical to focus on creating a single-district, two-ballot system.

He noted that different parties have discussed the question for years, but little has been accomplished.

"It may be more advisable to fix the electoral system if all agree the current one is problematic," Wu said.

Under existing election rules, a constituent district elects several lawmakers, allowing some to enter office on off-beat campaign platforms.

Hou Han-chu (侯漢君), who teaches public administration at Taipei University, doubted that the reform measures can materialize given the emotional political climate.

"It would be a great feat just to promote reform," Hou said, noting that people by and large frown on the legislature.

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