Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Legislative reform is not certain

FIGHTING Interparty squabbling and factionalism are likely to derail the constitutional amendment bill facing the legislature in today's legislative sitting

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The constitutional amendment bill on legislative reform and downsizing will be handled in the sitting today, but it is still uncertain whether the bill will pass, amid partisan squabbling.

The bill focuses on Article 4 of the Constitution which stipulates that legislative seats will be cut to 113 from the 7th legislature, and the current electoral system will be reformed to a "single-member district, two-vote system."

Although all caucuses -- except for the that of the alliance of independent lawmakers -- agree on these two items, they differ on the article which stipulates the abolishment of the National Assembly, as well as the right of citizens to propose a constitutional amendment via referendums.

"Regarding the current constitutional amendment task, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) hopes to achieve the halving of the current legislative seats, the implementation of a `single-member district, two-vote system,' abolishment of the National Assembly and the citizen's right to propose a referendum to make constitutional amendments," DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung said, reiterating the party's stand yesterday.

But the pan-blue caucuses do not agree that the public should be able to initiate a referendum for constitutional amendments, instead arguing that the public can only choose to accept or reject the amendment work conducted by the legislature.

It is likely that the bill may fail to pass due to the disagreement.

"Some people will say they do not oppose to the legislative downsizing, but they will oppose to other parts in the article. Then we will be stuck in and impasse," Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said two days ago.

As per regulations, legislature needs the support of at least three-quarters of all lawmakers present to pass a constitutional amendment bill. Currently there are 217 lawmakers. At least 163 have to be present today to hold a vote on the bill. All the caucuses have issued A-level mobilization order for today's sitting, and they will all hold meetings this morning to allow the their members to discuss the bill and finalize the caucuses' positions.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus revealed yesterday that Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) would attend the caucus meeting this morning to declare the party's support for the legislative reform.

"Lien will participate in the caucus meeting to declare the party's support for the legislative reform bill, and seek the support of the caucus members on the issue," KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said.

The alliance of the independent lawmakers, whose opposition to the bill resulted in the its failure to pass earlier before the March presidential election remained ambiguous about its position on downsizing. The alliance will discuss the bill its caucus meeting this morning.

Before the extra session started, the PFP caucus had objected to rushing through the bill during the extra session, but after being pressured by public opinion, it finally decided to rejoin the reform bandwagon. The TSU caucus has shown reluctance to show support for the new electoral system, but said it would still vote in favor of the change if its proposal to amend the bill to leave out the electoral system change cannot obtain the support of other parties.

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