Constitutional reform bill set to stall all over again


Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 3

A constitutional amendment bill on legislative reform and downsizing which was to be voted on in an extra sitting later this month may be in limbo again as the demands of rival party caucuses diverge.

Although Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday expressed optimism that the bill would be discussed in the extra session, he also said it was not clear if it would be passed.

The People First Party (PFP) legislative caucus first objected to handling the bill two days ago, saying it would be rash to discuss it as early as the next sitting, and that it would be more appropriate to deal with it during regular sessions.

"We do not oppose amending the Constitution, but we want to proceed with amendments via standard procedures and we want to treat the Constitution with due gravity," PFP caucus whip Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said.

Liu said that the constitutional amendment should not be just about legislative downsizing, but should also include other issues such as fundamental political structures.

Liu said the PFP caucus had suggested that the legislature commence the next regular session earlier than Sept. 17 as scheduled and discuss the bill carefully at that time.

public opinion

But the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus yesterday insisted that the bill should be handled in the extra session in response to mainstream public opinion.

"This time, the constitutional amendment bill halving legislative seats, taking on the electoral `single-member district, two-vote system,' letting the public decide on the new constitution via referendum and abolishing the National Assembly, has received a high level of support in recent polls, so we insist that legislative reform responds to mainstream opinion," KMT caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福) said.

"Legislative reform has been thoroughly discussed in academic circles and the public sector, so handling the reform bill during the extra session is not being hasty at all," Huang said.

A top KMT official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) was determined to push through the reform bill.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday also restated its position, insisting that the bill be dealt with in the extra session.

"There is no better time to deal with the bill," DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.


Ker said that if the bill was not debated and passed during the extra session, then there would be no time to discuss it in the session following because most legislators would be busy campaigning for December's legislative elections.

"The KMT and the PFP are now at cross-purposes and this has resulted in chaos in the blue camp. But I hope the blue camp's internal conflict will not result in the failure of the reform," Ker said.

As with the pan-blue camp's internal strife, however, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) begged to differ with the DPP's unreserved support for the bill, insisting that the priority was to write a new constitution.

"We will agree to pass the reform bill only if the contents are restricted to legislative downsizing and a German-styled `single-member district, two-vote system,'" TSU caucus whip Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) said.

All caucuses had agreed to pass the bill on March 19, but the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) demanded extra negotiations at the last minute.

Now, after four months, the bill is eligible to be voted on in a sitting if any caucus moves to do so.