Sun, May 29, 2005 - Page 2 News List

DPP's timing not the best: observers

BETTER IDEA A civic leader said that the party's move to get a constitutional interpretation of the assembly law could have waited until after the upcoming session ends

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

It's not the best time for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus to request a constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices on the law governing the National Assembly's operations, political observers said yesterday.

The DPP caucus' request followed its failed attempt to seek a reconsideration of part of the law in the legislature last week.

"I'm afraid that the DPP is putting itself in a very awkward position, although it's the right and necessary way to go," said Taipei Society Chairman Hung Yu-hung (洪裕宏). "It will face another dilemma if the grand justices conclude that the legislation is unconstitutional, but the assembly votes in favor of the constitutional amendments."

Hung said it would have been preferable for the DPP to wait until the ratification process was complete. If the assembly votes in favor of the constitutional amendment package, Hung said the DPP may want to scrap its plan to get a constitutional interpretation. But if the assembly votes against the amendments, it wouldn't be too late for the DPP to make such a request.

Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a research fellow at the Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Academia Sinica, said that the DPP's move to request a constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices is primarily a political move aimed at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

"The assembly meeting may have well ended and the political agenda shifted when the ruling comes out," Hsu said. "The gesture is aimed more at pressuring the KMT, which is also in favor of the constitutional amendments, to refrain from deviating from its stance on the matter."

While the grand justices' ruling may not impact the assembly's decision on the constitutional amendment package, Hsu said that it may help solve similar constitutional disputes in the future, because the issue of the ratification threshold would be fully debated and a legal explanation given.

Both Hung and Hsu agreed that former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) played a key role in the DPP's flip-flop on the matter.

In a bid to get the Executive Yuan off the hook, Hsu said that the DPP decided to let its legislative caucus do the damage control after the Statute Governing the Operation of the National Assembly (國大職權行使法) had already become law.

Under pressure from civic groups -- mainly those led by Lin and Hung -- the DPP caucus requested the lawmaking body reconsider two of the law's articles: the one requiring a three-quarters majority vote for the passage of constitutional amendments and another stipulating that ballots cast by assembly members failing to toe their party's line should be dubbed "invalid," yet still be counted as part of the total number of votes.

After the DPP caucus failed in that effort, Lin pressed on, asking the Executive Yuan to request that the legislature block the statute. The government declined to do so, but let the DPP caucus file a request for a constitutional interpretation from the grand justices. Also, although President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) signed the bill into law, he made clear in a note that he disagrees with parts of the law.

Analyzing the DPP's strategy, Hsu said that it reflects the party's flexibility in responding to Lin's petition.

"It is now putting pressure on the KMT, which is caught between its promise of supporting the constitutional amendments and the possible defiance of its own assembly members on the matter," he said.

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