Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Referendum regarded as boost to legislative reform

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE An analyst said that if a vote shows that the people want the reform, then there is little lawmakers can do to avoid carrying it through

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A referendum on legislative reform could prod lawmakers into reviving a government pledge made in 2001 that all parties support, a political analyst said.

Two DPP lawmakers last week suggested adding the referendum to two others -- on the the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and membership of the World Health Organization -- which the government is planning to hold on presidential election day next March.

A vote in favor of legislative reform would create enormous pressure on lawmakers who have been lazy in honoring their commitments, said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), assistant research fellow at the Academia Sinica.

Hsu said it was unlikely that lawmakers would speed up reform of the Legislative Yuan in the next few months without an catalyst such as the referendum since the task required amending the Constitution.

"Because the number of legislature seats is stipulated in the ROC Constitution, the country cannot realize the goal of legislative reform until the revisions are confirmed by a special session of the National Assembly," Hsu explained.

He said a referendum, especially if it is conducted according to a yet-to-be-passed referendum law, would help kickstart the stalled reforms.

A consensus to reform the legislature was reached by the major parties when they decided to abolish the National Assembly in 2000 and was endorsed by a majority of legislators in the 2001 legislative election.

A campaign initiated by the Action Alliance for the Reform of the Legislature (改造國會行動聯盟) attracted the signatures of 179 lawmakers who pledged that they would press for the reforms in the Legislative Yuan.

The alliance, comprising scholarly groups and societies, advocates reducing the number of seats in the legislature, changing the way legislators are elected and extending legislative terms to four years.

By the time lawmakers started their summer recess in June, the legislature had made little progress in setting up a special committee to decide on the details of the reform plan.

"The stalled program proves that it is impossible for legislators to do something that would deprive them of their power and interests even though so many of them pledged to carry out the reforms in 2001," said DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津).

The measures have been held up by disputes over how many lawmakers the legislature should have and on how the special legislative committee should be set up.

The DPP, which Hsu described as the driving force behind the reforms, wants to reduce the minimum number of lawmakers needed to vote to convene the special committee to less than half.

The DPP and its pan-green ally TSU suggested that the committee should convene upon request of one-fifth, or 45, of the lawmakers.

The ruling party advocates downsizing the legislature to 150 seats and using a "single-member district, two vote" election system.

A poll conducted by a group of pro-independence academics demonstrated public support for DPP plan to hold a referendum on legislative reform.

The results of the poll, conducted by the Taiwan Professors Association (台灣教授協會) and released on July 6, showed that 67 percent of respondents agreed on the need for the referendum, while 74 percent supported halving the number of lawmakers.

Sixty percent of the 1,080 people interviewed agreed with the ruling party's plans for legislative reform.

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