Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Draft constitution moves ahead

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE The preamble for a draft constitution proposed by a private group states Taiwan is a `free and democratic republic that is governed by the rule of law'

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The first draft constitution proposed by a private group to receive sufficient endorsement from lawmakers will proceed to the legislature's Procedure Committee today.

Allen Houng (洪裕宏), convener of the Constitutional Reform Alliance, yesterday said that they had collected signatures from 75 legislators. It has thus passed the legal threshold of one quarter of the legislature to make the petition valid. All the endorsers are from the Democratic Progressive Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union, he said.

Houng called on the Procedure Committee to ignore political considerations and put the proposal on the legislative agenda so the voice of the people can be heard.

"We are not asking the legislature to pass the proposal now, but to give it a chance for deliberation," he said.

If the proposal passes the first hurdle, the legislature would be required to form a constitutional amendment committee, which would be formed in proportion to the seats each party has in the legislature.

It requires three quarters of the legislators to be present and the consent of three quarters of those who are present to pass the proposal at the plenary legislative meeting, pending a public referendum.

The preamble of the draft clearly declares that "Taiwan is a free and democratic republic that is governed by the rule of law" and its sovereignty belongs to its people.

To avoid controversy, the draft includes only vague language on the nation's territorial boundaries, making mention of "the area in which the constitution has power" and that the national flag "will be defined by the law."

The proposal would give the public the ability to initiate further constitutional reform and enshrine human rights, including abolishing the death sentence and endorsing same-sex marriage.

The draft would also guarantee the rights of Aborigines by establishing an Aboriginal Assembly and protecting their right to autonomy.

While the alliance, composed of 52 private groups, was originally undecided concerning a system of government, Houng yesterday said that they eventually opted for a parliamentary system because they believed this would create a more stable government.

"Taiwan is a politically divided society and each presidential election makes the chasm deeper and wider," he said. "Besides, statistics show that there are more successful cases of parliamentary systems around the world than of presidential systems."

To keep the government and parliament in check, the draft proposed to adopt a bicameral legislative system consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives, as in the US system.

The House of Representatives would have about 230 seats and the Senate 75. The president would be head of state and serve a five-year term after election by a college of representatives composed of the Senate, House of Representatives and city and county councilors.

The Senate leader would take over the presidency if the president could not perform his or her duties. If the Senate leader were incapacitated, the head of the House of Representatives would be the next person in line to assume power.

The prime minister would be the head of the government and be elected among the House of Representatives and appointed by the president. The vice premier and Cabinet officials would be recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the president.

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