Constitutional amendments unlikely to meet deadline after talks break down
The legislative caucus of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) accused the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) on Tuesday of a lack of sincerity leading to a breakdown in bipartisan consultations that will likely squash any chance at amending the Constitution in the current election cycle.
The KMT caucus rejected the charge, however, saying that the consultations did not break down and that it wanted to take another month to discuss proposed constitutional amendments.
After a meeting convened by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng ( ) to discuss constitutional amendments on Tuesday, DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming ( ) condemned the KMT for rejecting proposed constitutional amendments.
Ker said the KMT asked to put the proposed constitutional amendments to further consultations and even demanded that a decision by the Central Election Commission to hold the 2016 legislative and presidential elections simultaneously be overturned. KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (
), who heads the party’s Policy Committee, denied that constitutional amendment consultations had broken down, saying the KMT hoped to continue talks.
“The KMT will work hard to persuade the DPP to support reviving the right of the Legislature to confirm the president’s nominee for premier,” Lai said.
At issue, however, is the timing of the process.
The Legislature is scheduled to go on its summer recess on Tuesday, seven months ahead of the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Jan. 16, 2016.
Amendment Still Needs a
According to Taiwan’s Constitution, after the Legislature passes a constitutional amendment, it needs to be publicized for six months, and then put to a referendum of the country’s voters.
Only if the constitutional amendments win the consent of more than half of all eligible voters will they take effect.
Because a six-month period is needed to publicize any proposed amendments and the Central Election Commission needs an additional 28-day period ahead of the referendum, Tuesday was virtually the last day in which amendments could have been passed in time to be voted on in a referendum held with national elections in January.
A referendum would have a much higher chance of passage if held in conjunction with the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 16 because of the high voter turnout needed to meet the referendum’s voter threshold requirements.
But the KMT’s Lai questioned why the referendum had to be held in tandem with the presidential election.
Extra Legislative Session?
Asked if dealing with the proposed constitutional amendments in one month meant that an extra legislative session would have to be held, Lai only said that it was one of several options.
DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi accused Lai of trying to link absentee voting and the Legislature’s right to confirm the premier to the KMT’s acceptance of passage of amendments the two parties apparently agree on.
The KMT and DPP both say they support lowering the voting age to 18 from the present 20 and lowering the minimum number of votes a political party needs to get legislator-at-large seats to 3 percent of the total party votes from the current 5 percent.
The KMT, however, also wanted absentee voting rights as well as the right to confirm the premier, while the DPP wanted to safeguard education rights and establish a national policy to protect the rights of offshore residents.
Three fourths of lawmakers have to be present and three fourth of those present have to agree to proposed constitutional amendments before they can be put to a national referendum.
Police clash with protesters yesterday inside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. Protesters from “Taiwan March” who disapproved of the Kuomintang (KMT) caucus’ handling of constitutional amendments on the last possible day of negotiations stormed the building in order to reason with KMT party whip Lai Shyh-bao only to be surrounded and forced out by authorities.