Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Constitutional change urged now

YOUNG TURKS Members of the Generations Forum said the nation cannot afford to wait until 2012 for change

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A private group is set to launch a lobbying effort this week to solicit support from legislators for its proposed constitutional amendments, which would adopt a parliamentary system and lower the threshold for constitutional revisions.

Jou Yi-cheng (周奕成), chief executive of the Generations Forum -- an organization made up of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) "young Turks" -- said that they hoped the proposal would pass the legislature before this legislative session ends and the amendments go into effect next year.

Jou said that he realized how difficult it is to pass constitutional reforms but the issue was too important to give up.

"It is still worth a try even if there is only a 1 percent chance of success," he said.

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

Jou said his group's proposal was endorsed by people across party lines. They all agreed the best course of action is to amend the Constitution and then put it to a popular vote, rather than writing a new constitution.

They also agreed to keep the preamble intact to prevent controversy, change the government system to parliamentary system, adopt a German style "one district, two-votes" system for legislative elections and lower the threshold for constitutional amendments.

Chen Yao-chang (陳耀昌), former convener of Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) medical team, said that this year is key in terms of pushing for constitutional reform because it would be difficult to do so during the 2012 presidential election when the next president will be preoccupied with re-election.

Blaming the constitutional system for political infighting and politicians' "imbecilic decision-making," Chen Yao-chang said that only constitutional reform can offer the country hope.

George Chang (張燦鍙), chairman of the Taiwan Culture Foundation, said that the ruling and opposition parties must come to a consensus on constitutional reform and realize that the Constitution has many flaws.

Chang said that he was all for steering away from changing controversial clauses in the Constitution, but it is inevitable that the amendment issue will be addressed in the future.

To avoid controversy, the proposal left the preamble intact and redefined the now abolished National Assembly as "people's right to exercise those of election, recall, initiation and referendum." The power of the president would be substantially reduced as the president would be elected by the legislature. The legislative speaker would take over the presidency if the president could not perform his or her duties. The position of vice president would be abolished.

The draft proposes a three-branch government. The Legislative Yuan would have 158 seats and have the right to form an investigation committee. The Judicial Yuan would be composed of 15 Grand Justices, one of whom would be nominated by the prime minister as the head of the Judicial Yuan, with the legislature's approval.

The proposal recommends a parliamentary system where legislators can double as Cabinet officials. The legislature would have the ability to cast a no-confidence vote against the prime minister. It would require the approval of a simple majority of the legislature to pass such a vote, and the prime minister would have to lead the Cabinet officials to resign within 10 days.

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