Tsai backpedalling on reform promises: KMT
Kuomintang ( KMT) politicians fired back at the opposition Democratic Progressive Party on the issue of reforming the nation’s semi-presidential system and introducing a parliamentary system, yesterday. Responding to Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen’s (
) remarks Monday that “a parliamentary system has no space to exist,” KMT Chairman Eric Chu ( ) said that constitutional reform should not be held ransom to the interests of one individual or political party.
Chu and the KMT have advocated a transition to a parliamentary system and the restoration of the Legislature’s power to vote on the appointment of a premier (
), a power that was scrapped by the KMT in 1997.
KMT spokesman Yang Weichung ( ) accused Tsai of backpedalling on comments she made during the 2014 year-end elections. Tsai was quoted by Yang as saying: “I very much approve of a transition from a presidential or semi-presidential system of two heads of state, to a parliamentary system.” Yang accused Tsai of equating popular support for a directly elected president with the negation of required parliamentcentered reforms.
Yang said that Tsai’s gravitation toward having a directly elected president is due to high public opinion, but belies the fact that there is 60 to 70 percent support for the restoration of legislative approval on the appointment of a premier.
Meanwhile DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng ( ) responded by labeling the KMT’s comments as “political calculation.” Cheng attempted to contextualize Tsai’s election-time remarks supporting a parliamentary system, saying that Tsai did not advocate such a system. Cheng said that Tsai had agreed with her opponent in a political debate last year that “moving from a presidential or system of two heads of state to a parliamentary system is a massive undertaking that will require much time to take care of.” He equated KMT support for a parliamentary system with its dramatic election defeats in 2014 and resulting attempts to consolidate its remaining power.
Cheng added that constitutional reform represented a major issue for the country that required pragmatism and experience of living under constitutional governance and a democratic culture. He explained away the popularity of parliamentary systems in continental Europe as being due to the prevalence of constitutional monarchies there. The existence of parliaments that are more important than directly elected leaders is different from Taiwan’s experience.
Cheng reiterated his party’s position of increasing representation in the Legislative Yuan and increasing civic participation in the process of constitutional reform. According to a Monday press release, the DPP advocates lowering the threshold for a party to win representation in the Legislature from the current five percent to three percent of total votes cast.
Currently, the KMT and DPP agree little on the extent and priorities of constitutional reform other than lowering the legal voting age to 18 and increasing the number of legislative seats.