Fri, Jun 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Experts say slew of legal challenges is good

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The recent plethora of constitutional interpretation requests are natural and necessary in a budding democracy, political observers said yesterday.

"In a country like Taiwan, whose democratic development is still in its infancy, it is necessary to ask the Justices of the Constitutional Court to interpret the Constitution to help shape social consensus over the constitutional system," said Taipei Society president Allen Houng (洪裕宏).

It is not a bad thing to see political parties or individuals file for contitutional interpretations, Houng said, because the Constitution is a set of rules, and not a living thing.

It is bound to cause confusion when it is implemented and needs to be interpreted for specific cases and bring them up to date. Such moves should be regarded as part of the civic movement and treated as positive, he said.

His opinion was echoed by Lo Cheng-tien (羅成典), deputy secretary-general at the Legislative Yuan.

"There is nothing wrong with legislators requesting a constitutional interpretation, as long as they can manage to obtain the endorsement of one-third of the lawmaking body," Lo said. "It is, however, usually used by political parties refusing to accept their defeat or failure in the political arena, and therefore hope to turn things around in the constitutonal court."

The People First Party (PFP) legislative cause yesterday petitioned to the Council of Grand Justices and asked them to rule on whether the National Assembly can vote on the constitutional amendment package passed by the legislature last August because of the record low turnout rate in the assembly election.

The caucus claimed that the 23.35 percent voter turnout hardly represents the will of the people.

The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislative cause is scheduled to file a request for constitutional interpretation from the Council of Grand Justices today.

They would like the grand justices to rule on whether Article 9 of the Statute Governing the Operation of the National Assembly (國大職權行使法) is unconstitutional.

The article stipulates that the constitutional amendment package should be voted on by the assembly separately, rather than as a whole.

Both the PFP and TSU are against the constitutional amendments. While the PFP won 18 seats in the assembly, the TSU won 21.

In additon to the PFP and TSU, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is the largest party in the assembly and takes up 127 seats, has also filed for a constitutional interpertation request, arguing that the three-quarters ratification threshold is unconstitutional.

The DPP also argued that it is unconstitutional to include invalid ballots when counting the total number of votes.

The DPP caucus has filed another constitutional interpretation on the government's controversial policy of collecting fingerprints for the new national identification cards. The collection of fingerprints for the new cards is slated to begin on July 1.

It is planning to file another request on the operation of the legislature's Procedure Committee, which it said violates the Constitution by habitually blocking goverment bills, including the confirmation of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) selections of Control Yuan members.

Another request waiting to be filed is on the legislative committee's right to unfreeze goverment budgets. The lawmaking body recently has ruled that frozen governement funds can only be unfrozen with the consent of the plenary legislative session.

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