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05TAIPEI1817 2005-04-18 07:17:00 UNCLASSIFIED American Institute Taiwan, Taipei
Cable title:  

TAIWAN NEWSPAPER COMMENTS ON UPCOMING

Tags:   OPRC KMDR KPAO TW 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 001817 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/RSP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD -
ROBERT PALLADINO
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: TAIWAN NEWSPAPER COMMENTS ON UPCOMING
CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION

1) An April 17 editorial in the pro-unification United
Daily News commented on the drawbacks of the proposed
constitutional changes to be reviewed by an ad hoc
National Assembly to convene in May. The following is
a full-text translation of the editorial:

2) "Several Ignored Major Shortcomings of this
Constitutional Revision"

Despite very serious doubts about the constitutionality
and fairness of its institutional design, the "first
and last-ever" election for an ad hoc National Assembly
will nonetheless be held. And thus far, only medium
and small political parties and civic groups have
expressed opposition to the proposed constitutional
amendments, which means the amendments are very likely
to be adopted as originally proposed.

However, in addition to the more controversial
proposals such as cutting Legislative Yuan (LY) seats
in half, adopting the Japanese single-member district
and two-vote system, and incorporating the referendum
system on constitutional amendments, there are, indeed,
many [constitutional] provisions that will be
accordingly affected and revised [by the proposed
changes]. When examined in detail, one can find many
violations of constitutional principles.
Unfortunately, these have not attracted much public
attention. This is the result of hasty passage of the
proposed amendments by the LY without comprehensive
public education and discussion. Further consideration
is really necessary.

First, due to the intention to abolish the ad hoc
National Assembly, Amendment II of the last
Constitutional change, which stipulates that an
impeachment of the President is to be proposed by the
LY and ratified, or rejected, by the ad hoc National
Assembly, will be revised so that the Grand Justices of
the Judicial Yuan would review and decide on a
presidential impeachment. That is, an impeachment will
become a lawsuit.

However, the Grand Justices are nominated by the
President and nominations are not limited to those with
qualifications of a judge. It is natural for the
Justices to be affected by political influence. That
their positions will be fair and just cannot be
trusted. What's more, those Grand Justices who are not
former judges lack the practical experience of judicial
trial. This is another major drawback for them to
review impeachments. A good example is the recent
problem of judicial review caused by the No. 582
Constitutional Interpretation that had to be resolved
by another interpretation, No. 592. And what should
the procedures be after impeachment cases become
judicial lawsuits? As the plaintiff, what is the LY's
position in the procedures? And what are the rights
and obligations of the President as the "defendant"?
It is not appropriate for the LY to institute laws to
[answer these questions], as it is also a party of the
lawsuit itself. When an impeachment can only be
proposed by the high threshold of a two-thirds majority
in the LY, a lack of proper safeguard measures in the
institutional design cannot be described as reasonable.

Second, legislative terms will be lengthened to four
years, while the seats are halved, so that legislative
elections can be held at the same time with the
presidential election. Right now the balance of power
between the President, the Premier, and the LY are not
clear. There are frequent clashes between the
President and an LY controlled by different political
parties. Now, we have to face not only the risk every
four years of different parties holding the LY majority
and the Presidency, but also [the problem that] the two
will both represent the latest public opinions. This
may increase difficulty for political mediation. An
institutional design with such high risk is indeed not
appropriate.

In addition, after the ad hoc National Assembly is
abolished, constitutional amendments and national
boundary changes will all be decided by referendum.
The proposed revision this time sets the conditions
[for referendums] as: proposals for boundary changes
need be endorsed by one-fourth of legislators, reviewed
by an LY session attended by three-fourths of the
legislators, and approved by a three-fourths majority
of the attendees; and the valid votes cast by the
voters [during the referendum] should be more than half
of the total eligible voters. For amending the
Constitution, the conditions for an LY proposal and a
referendum are exactly the same. Obviously, these
kinds of rules are not appropriate. Because the
importance and political impact of any proposed change
of national boundaries, the national flag and the
national designation will be much stronger than the
general constitutional amendments, taking into account
current domestic and international situations. Even if
the numbers of seats needed for the LY to propose such
changes are the same, there should be different
thresholds set for referendum votes [between the
general amendments and those to change national
boundaries].

Further examination shows that the thresholds set for
the impeachment, recall, and even election of the
President must be readjusted simultaneously. The
current presidential election system only requires a
relative majority for a candidate to be elected. But
when the LY passes a recall of the President, more than
half of all the eligible voters must vote and more than
half of the valid votes cast must say yes before the
move can be ratified. This means the recall move needs
to successfully go through two checkpoints and a more
strict absolute majority system is applied. This rule
is obviously not balanced. Furthermore, when
legislators want to recall the President, [endorsement
by] one-fourth of the seats for the proposal and a two-
thirds majority for its adoption will be needed.
Meanwhile, a move to impeach the President needs one-
half of the legislators to endorse and two-thirds of
them to say yes. These are very strange provisions.
For an impeachment is to determine the legal
accountability while a recall is to determine the
political accountability [of the President]. The
conditions for legal accountability are stricter than
those for political accountability. Does this mean
that political confrontations are encouraged and legal
violations are treated lightly? In short, any numbers
set as thresholds in the Constitution should be
institutionally logical. A certain line of reasoning
should be followed.

The Constitution is the cornerstone of any
constitutionally democratic country. But the upcoming
constitutional revision has failed to attract public
attention. The proposed changes are very likely to be
hastily adopted under control of the political parties.
What will happen to the existing Constitution, which
has effectively lost its function as a regulator of
national powers, after being distorted again by this
[upcoming] revision, is yet to be known. But one thing
can be sure. This will definitely not be a
constitutional reform achievement.

PAAL