The moment for constitutional refrom in Taiwan has arrived, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday as she called for reform of the Legislative Yuan structure before changing the constitutional system, with better representation across the country that would benefit smaller political parties.
Tsai, who was elected DPP chairperson on Sunday, made public her views on constitutional reform in an articles published yesterday by the Chinese-language Apple Daily — the first time she has made clear her position on the issue.
“While many constitutional issues are awaiting solutions, the most important issue, in my view, is finding a solution to resolve the disconnect between the Legislative Yuan and public opinion,” Tsai wrote.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Taiwan is currently in a democratic crisis where the ruling party that controls the legislative majority stands on the opposite side of the people and voters are unable to change the “status quo” with any constitutional mechanism, Tsai said.
In addition to a lack of representative democracy, she said people have no recourse to national referendums to resolve disputes due to the high threshold required.
Tsai proposed replacing the mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system with mixed-member proportional representation (MMP), which was adopted in Germany, saying that the system would ensure that the number of seats a party receives better mirrors the proportion of votes it received.
The MMP system ensures a party’s total legislative seats, including the single-member seats and at-large seats, are proportional with its share of the vote, thus benefiting smaller parties if the threshold of party votes were lowered, while the MMM system’s methodology of calculating single-member seats and at-large seats separately works against smaller parties and is often criticized as unfair.
The system would also eliminate the current phenomenon of votes of unequal value and ensure that smaller political parties are included in the legislature, she said, adding that the DPP “has paid the price for messing up the previous round of constitutional amendments in 2005 and has to be held responsible for it.”
Lowering the threshold of a national referendum unrelated to changing the status of the country to a simple majority is also necessary for the purpose of direct democracy, Tsai said.
However, Tsai’s priorities regarding reform were questioned by several party members and academics, who said that discussion of the presidential versus parliamentary system should come before the legislature’s structure.
National Dong Hua University professor Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒) said Tsai could intentionally sidestep the agenda because of her planned presidential bid.
Former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) wrote in a column published yesterday by my-formosa.com, a news Web site, that Tsai should have approached the constitutional reform agenda with a “broader perspective” by promoting parliamentarism, which is widely supported by the public.
At a time when even the pan-blue camp supports eliminating the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan, which means changing the separation of five powers — the core of the Constitution — Tsai should seize the opportunity to promote fundamental changes to the constitutional system, Lin said.
“[Fundamental changes] would provide more benefits to the people of Taiwan,” Lin said.
Hung Chi-kune (洪智坤), a member of the DPP’s Central Executive Committee, also questioned whether reform of the legislature and central government could be separated, saying that if Tsai intended to prioritize legislative reform, she should have proposed to limit presidential power at the same time.
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