Curb presidential power, activists say

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Nov 09, 2013 - Page 3

An act governing presidential power should be enacted by the legislature to restrain the president from extending his power at will and the president should not serve as the chairman of his political party, activists proposed yesterday.

In light of what they said was President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent infringement of the Constitution with his “plot” to oust Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) charter revision to have the incumbent president automatically serve as KMT chairman, several groups, among them Taiwan Democracy Watch (TDW) and the Judicial Reform Foundation, made the recommendation at a press conference in Taipei.

“The political system in Taiwan has tilted toward presidentialism over the years, but it has been extremely difficult to amend the Constitution given the high threshold,” said National Taiwan University professor Yen Chueh-an (顏厥安), who also serves as a TWD spokesperson.

“That is why something has to be done to stop the president from abusing his administrative powers,” Yen said, summing up the opinion of the activists.

Citing the US as an example, the professor said that the US Code has placed limits on presidential power, while the War Powers Resolution, passed by the US Congress in 1973, also constrained the president’s power to commit the country to armed conflict.

The US example shows that an act governing presidential power could be initiated and enacted by lawmakers without violating the Constitution, he said.

The activists said the change to the KMT charter would be inconsistent with the Constitution, which stipulates that the nation’s armed forces should be nonpartisan.

It would be ironic if the armed forces should be nonpartisan and the president, the commander-in-chief, is not required to be nonpartisan, Yen said, adding that a president who doubles as party chairman is “too much of a constitutional risk to take.”

The groups also recommended that the legislative speaker should not serve in any position in his or her political party and that the president should not meet with the heads of independent agencies, such as the prosecutor-general and the National Police Agency director-general.