Sun, Oct 03, 2004 - Page 3 News List

President shouldn't take lawmakers' queries: experts

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Opinions may differ on whether the president's request to make a state-of-the-nation speech at the Legislative Yuan is constitutional, but most agree that it would be unconstitutional for him to take questions from lawmakers after his speech.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced on Sept. 26 that he wanted to address the Legislative Yuan, and that he was willing to be questioned by and exchange opinions with the lawmakers, even though the Constitution does not give lawmakers the right to question the president.

Chen specified that his talk would highlight the US arms deal, the nation's bid for UN membership and cross-strait relations.

The Presidential Office sent a request to the Legislative Yuan on Sept. 27 asking arrangements to be made for the address.

The request for the address and the possibility of questions following it have raised ferocious arguments as to whether the request and the questioning are constitutional and how the address should be delivered.

The pan-green caucuses have made an official proposal that the legislature invite Chen to deliver a first-ever address to the body. Former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) addressed the National Assembly each year after the Constitution was amended in 1992. The Additional Articles of the Constitution (中華民國憲法增修條文) stipulated that when the National Assembly convened, it could listen to the president's state-of-the-nation address, review the nation's policies and offer advice.

But after the National Assembly was turned into an ad hoc body and the Constitution was amended two years ago to stipulate the Legislative Yuan as the site for such an address, the section about legislators offering advice was eliminated.

Critics differ as to whether Chen can request to deliver an address, but most agree that questioning was unfeasible and unconstitutional.

"The Constitution is silent on whether the president has the right to initiate such a request, and the president's request to the Legislative Yuan does not have a legal effect; the Legislative Yuan can choose to reject or accept it, so there is no issue of violation of the Constitution," said Tsai Tsung-chen (蔡宗珍), a National Taiwan University associate law professor.

Tsai said the right to initiate a state-of-the-nation address could be negotiated between the Presidential Office and the legislature.

But Tsai said that lawmakers do not have a right to question the president or comment after the address, even if the president agrees to this.

"The Constitution stipulates that the premier responds to the Legislative Yuan, so the premier needs to report to the Legislative Yuan and be questioned by the lawmakers," Tsai said.

"But the president responds to the people, not the Legislative Yuan. When he gives his state-of-the-nation address in the Legislative Yuan, he is in fact just using the Legislative Yuan as a platform to address the people," Tsai said.

"If the president accepts questions from lawmakers, it would violate the Executive Yuan's status as the highest administrative organ of the state as stipulated by the Constitution." Tsai said.

Taipei Society Chairman Hung Yu-hung (洪裕宏) agreed.

"The president's intention to deliver an address in the Legislative Yuan seems to indicate that he is leaning toward the presidential system. If he gets questioned by the lawmakers, he would seem to be replacing the premier," Hung said.

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