wary as Chen implies desire to quash legislature reform
By Crystal Hsu
May 27, 2004
The campaign to shake up the
Legislature through constitutional reform may prove little
more than a political stunt as President Chen Shui-bian (Èô„Êƒ¥ÊâÅ)
reportedly signaled a desire to halt the venture during a
recent meeting with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (ÁéãÈáëÂ¼„).
Branding Chen a hypocrite, opposition lawmakers yesterday
urged proponents of legislative reform, notably former
Democratic Progressive Party chairman Lin I-hsiung (ÊûóÁæ©ÈõÑ),
to pressure Chen to fulfill one of his key campaign pledges.
The DPP legislative caucus, seeking to defend the
president, insisted that Chen never reneged on the issue and
attributed the information gap to Wang's misreading of Chen's
The ruling party, however, proposed limiting the ongoing
constitutional reform to procedural amendments and saving
discussions on downsizing the Legislature for 2006 when Chen
intends to write the Constitution anew.
A lack of consensus promises to plunge the Legislature into
inactivity tomorrow when the body is due to take up proposals
to cut its seats from 225 to 113, alter rules on electing its
members and extend lawmakers' tenure from three to four years.
Lawmakers from the main opposition Kuomintang told a
morning news conference that the meeting Friday may not
accomplish anything as Chen recently advised Wang to
reconsider the wisdom of halving the Legislature.
The president allegedly told Wang he preferred a 150-seat
lawmaking body as the DPP originally envisioned. Prior to the
March 20 presidential election, however, the party agreed to a
more drastic cut, bowing to pressure from Lin and other
critics of the Legislature.
"Now that the election is over, the KMT and the People
First Party appear to be the only supporters of the campaign
to trim the Legislature" KMT lawmaker Huang Teh-fu (ÈªÉÂæ…Á¶è)
All caucuses except the Union of Independent Legislators
signed an agreement in March to halve legislative seats, alter
rules in electing lawmakers and reserve at least 30 percent of
the body for female representatives, beginning in early 2008.
"Where is Lin who staged sit-in demonstrations outside
the Legislature and the KMT headquarters to press for
legislative reform?" Huang added.
Independent lawmakers demanded more cross-party
consultations right before the Legislature planned to call
final readings of the proposed reform. The motion allows the
caucuses four months to iron out their differences before the
Legislature acts on the measure.
Independent lawmakers have voiced reservation about the
single-seat district rules, saying the design would foster
pork-barrel politics. The Taiwan Solidarity Union has echoed
the concern, as the planned reform would make it more
difficult for independents and small parties to win
KMT Legislator Cho Po-yuan said Chen risked jeopardizing
his credibility if he failed to help downsize the Legislature,
a cause that has drawn support from the opposition alliance.
Cashing in on their numerical edge, KMT and PFP lawmakers
placed the issue on the legislative agenda for tomorrow,
apparently with a view to embarrassing the Chen
Liao Wan-ju (ÂªñÂ©âÊ±ù), another KMT lawmaker, challenged
Lin to come forward and comment on Chen's inconsistency which
she said constituted blatant cheating of votes.
"Over the years, Chen has vowed to reform this and
reform that," Liao said. "Now there is an
opportunity for him to realize an important plank of the DPP
platform. He must not step back and disappoint his
The DPP, however, insisted that Chen remains committed to
legislative reform but said he favors a more judicious
approach to the matter.
DPP policy official Liang Wen-chieh said that his party
considered it adequate to scrap the National Assembly and
shift the power to ratify constitutional revisions to the
people this time around.
The proposals to downsize the Legislature and other reforms
can wait until 2006 when the government is slated to redraw
the nation's political system, as Chen promised in his
inaugural speech, Liang added.
Any other reforms may prove to be futile, he said, citing
as an example the situation where lawmakers win their seats
through proportional representation.
"There may not be any need for such lawmakers if the
public concludes that a presidential political system suits
the country better," Liang said.
DPP legislative whip Tsai Huang-liang (Ëî°ÁÖåÁëØ) echoed
the theme and blamed the speaker for misinterpreting Chen's
Tsai said his colleagues would vote for measures to make
the Legislature more efficient as long as Wang is able to
remove resistance by any caucuses.
DPP legislative leader Lee Chun-yee (Êùé”øäÊØÖ) dismissed
the opposition's activism as bogus. In the absence of
consensus, the Legislature may not act on bills for which the
four-month negotiation period has yet to expire, he noted.