Fri, Oct 17, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Chen adds contours to `road map' for constitution

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday confirmed details of his constitutional reform drive, saying a new constitution should be implemented on May 20, 2008 to coincide with the inauguration of a new president.

"Last week, the EU discussed the issue of formulating a new constitution to cope with the increase in its members from 15 countries to 25 next year," Chen said.

"It was a very meaningful communication and, just like the EU, Taiwan needs a new constitution that fits the island's present realities," he said.

Chen made the remarks while receiving a group of German and US legal experts, including the vice president of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, Winfried Hassemer.

On Wednesday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavyweights revealed the president's plan to enact a new Constitution in 2008.

Chen, who is also DPP chairman, said yesterday that his party is doing the preliminary work for a new constitution. He said a compete draft of the new document should be put to a referendum in 2006.

"If all goes well, the new constitution can be put into force May 20, 2008, to coincide with the inauguration of a new president," he said.

After complaints by DPP legislators that the party's constitutional task force didn't contain enough lawmakers, Presidential Office Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) said yesterday that a new constitution would be negotiated among different parties and experts. Chiou said that if negotiations broke down, the government could present two different versions of the constitution to a referendum.

"Chen proposed creating a new constitution in 2006, and officially putting it into practice in 2008. It is a very natural process because when we decide the new constitution by referendum in 2006, there will still be legal procedures to go through," Chiou said.

"Even if the new constitution is announced in 2007, it cannot be carried out immediately, so we estimate 2008 is about the time when all the procedures will have been finished and the new constitution can come into effect," he said.

Chiou said that DPP legislators such as Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) misunderstood the task force, adding the task force will only be focusing on promoting the concept of a new constitution and setting up the timetable and procedures.

He added that Chen had stated clearly that all parties and the entire nation would work on creating the document and that the DPP caucus will be needed to negotiate with other parties.

"The DPP prefers not to take the road of amending the Constitution," Chiou said, adding that over two-thirds of the Constitution would need to be amendment.

Chiou said the current amendment procedure is convoluted and would be criticized by society, making it necessary to decide on a new constitution through a referendum.

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