Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 3 News List

New constitution would sweep aside DPP obstacles

REFORM A new constitution could help the president appeal to pro-independence supporters and solve many of the problems that are confronting the country

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) call last Sunday to write a new Constitution in 2006 not only surprised Chen's party comrades but also prompted the US and China to warn him of his "five nos" promise he made during his inaugural speech in 2000.

However, a new Constitution has been a DPP goal throughout its history. In 1989, former party chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) first proposed a draft of the "Constitution of the Republic of Taiwan," and in 1991, the DPP headquarters presented a "Democratic Constitutional Charter" to the extraordinary National Affairs Conference convened by then president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to amend the Republic of China Constitution.

At the DPP's national congress in 1991, the party amended its chapter to state that "the building an independent sovereign Republic of Taiwan and constructing a new Constitution shall be decided by all the residents of Taiwan through a referendum."

During the National Assembly election in 1991 and the 2000 presidential election, the creation of a new constitution was a main plank of the party's campaign.

DPP Legislator Trong Chai (蔡同榮) said that over the past five decades, Taiwanese society has undergone major economic and commercial changes that the Constitution was not necessarily suited to.

"The current ROC Constitution was promulgated according to the 450 million people in mainland China in 1947. If Taiwan keeps using this Constitution, it would be a big insult to the wisdom of the people of Taiwan," Chai said.

Claims on China

The Constitution stipulates the ROC government still claims sovereignty over the 35 provinces of China, even though the government now has jurisdiction only over Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu.

Chai said that most importantly, the ROC Constitution failed to clearly define the power and responsibilities of the president and premier.

Ambiguity

"Our current system is that the president holds the power but doesn't have responsibility for the administration, while the premier doesn't have the administrative power but has to take the responsibility. It's a design between the presidential and Cabinet [parliamentary] system. We should clearly define it as either a presidential or a Cabinet system," Chai said.

Proposing a new constitution now also highlights two major obstacles facing Chen's administration: the debate on the country's sovereignty and his embattled administration.

Chen's call for a new constitution strikes a chord with pro-Taiwan independence supporters who would regard a new constitution as a sign of the nation's sovereignty.

Chen can also use a new constitution to solve many of the problems that have dogged him during his more than three years in power.

Partisan feuding in the legislature, in which the opposition controls a slim majority, has blocked the DPP from carrying many of its reforms plans.

One of the reforms the DPP wants to implement is halving the number of legislative seats from the current 225, a move the opposition parties oppose.

Vehicle for reform

A new constitution could also be used as a way to comprehensively solve the country's numerous existing problems, including confusion about whether the country should adopt a presidential or a Cabinet system, whether the vice president can serve concurrently as the premier, and whether Taiwan should have a two-tier or three-tier system of administration.

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