A new round of constitutional reforms will now be promoted following the passage of a constitutional amendment package by the National Assembly yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said.
"[The passage] means not an end of work but a brand-new beginning," Chen said. "Upon the completion of the first phase of constitutional reform, the second phase of constitutional reform will formally commence."
The 300-member assembly approved constitutional reforms that will grant referendum power to the public to approve constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislative Yuan.
The proposal was passed by a vote of 249 to 24, more than the required three-quarters majority. Other reform measures that passed included cutting the number of seats in the legislature from 225 to 113 in 2007, adopting "a single member, two vote" electoral system and extending lawmakers's terms from three years to four.
Chen reiterated his wish to deliver a "timely, relevant and viable" constitution when he steps down in 2008.
He said he would adopt "a stance that's fair and transcend partisan lines" in pushing for further constitutional reforms and that he would speed up the forming of a constitutional reform committee.
He also said he would do his best to seek comprehensive understanding and communication with the opposition parties to forge a consensus.
He made the remarks while receiving representatives from the Taiwan Business Associations at the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon.
Chen told his visitors that he would "always invite participation from all sectors and all levels of the public in the discussion of the constitutional reforms, to actively forge a public consensus."
"I believe constitutional reforms mean not only reforms of systems, but also offer the best education on democracy and constitutional reform for the public," Chen said.
"I hope everyone will feel a sense of joy and anticipation in welcoming the engineering of the second phase of constitutional reforms and help write history for us as well as our future generations," he said.
At a separate event yesterday, Presidential Office Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun said Chen's plan to introduce the second phase of constitutional reform would not touch on sensitive political issues such as changing the country's official name, independence or unification or a national sovereignty or territory.
Yu said future reform efforts would focus on issues of major concern to the public, such as whether to have a three-branch government or a five-branch one, a presidential versus a parliamentary system of government, lowering the voting age, overhauling the military conscription system, enhancing labor-rights protections and adding a special chapter on the well-being of Aborigines in the Constitution.
Chen hosted a dinner for the Democratic Progressive Party's National Assembly delegates last night to express his appreciation for their efforts.