Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Alliance hopes to keep the National Assembly alive

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

Advocating a more moderate downsizing of the legislature, a new interest group promising to bring a new perspective on constitutional reform was established yesterday.

Started by the Democratic Action Alliance, the Constitutional Reform Alliance (優質修憲聯盟) will seek to introduce the social welfare perspective to constitutional reform, the group's representative, Kuo Chung-yi (郭中一), said yesterday.

"Constitutional reform deals with the future of our country. So far though, it's just become the subject of bickering between political parties," Kuo said.

The group is seeking to push for the nomination of qualified candidates for the next National Assembly, and is taking applications from politicians, scholars, social activists and interested members of society.

Elections of members to the new National Assembly is set to be a hot topic of debate for the sixth legislature when it convenes in January, given that the assembly's purpose will be to ratify new constitutional reforms promulgated in August this year.

According to the Constitution, the National Assembly must be elected and convened by next June to ratify the August amendments.

While the Constitution states that the 300 National Assembly seats will be distributed among involved political parties based on a proportion of votes won by a party's candidates, Kuo said yesterday that actually, any social group with more than 20 members can also participate in the nomination process.

As a result, the Constitutional Reform Alliance plans to nominate at least 160 members to the National Assembly, Kuo said.

Besides helping non-politicians gain seats in the National Assembly, another goal of the group is to push through its own draft of constitutional reforms.

"Our constitutional reform package will focus on two main areas: reducing the number of seats in the legislature, and maintaining the National Assembly after it completes its designated function," Kuo said.

Both reforms to the Constitution were approved by the legislature in August. However, according to Article 1 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution, the amendments will not be ratified until a National Assembly is formed via election six months after the amendments are promulgated.

The six month period will end Feb. 26 next year. Article 1 further stipulates that the assembly convened for the purpose of ratifying the reforms be elected within three months of the promulgation period.

While one of the cross-party-approved constitutional revisions includes reducing the size of the legislature from 225 seats to 113, the group believes that number should be reduced only to 200.

"Cutting the number of seats in the legislature in half is too much. A number of committees in the legislature will not be able to operate with so few members," Kuo said.

Furthermore, instead of disbanding the National Assembly after it has ratified the amendments as currently called for by the constitutional reforms, the group is says that the National Assembly should be maintained in a supervisory capacity to be called upon if other constitutional amendments are proposed.

Even though the reforms call for the legislative downsizing and the abolishment of the National Assembly, it must still be ratified by the assembly -- giving the group a chance to change the result -- Kuo said, adding that a number of legislators had privately expressed their support for the alliance's ideas.

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