Constitutional reform a bottom-up task: President Tsai

10/02/2017 01:02 PM
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Taipei, Oct. 2 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Sunday that constitutional reform is a bottom-up undertaking that should not be initiated by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) without majority public participation.

"One political party by itself is not capable of carrying out such a huge task and we will explore the chances of holding dialogue with other political parties in the next phase," Tsai told CNA in an exclusive interview.

Tsai, who is also chairperson of the DPP, said at the party's 17th national congress on Sept. 24 that the constitutional reform plan would include issues such as lowering the voting age to 18, codifying human rights, and reforming the legislative election system to get rid of unequal vote values and inequitable representation.

On the question of whether the reform should include a change to a Cabinet or fully presidential system of government, Tsai said she did not want to impose her personal views on the issue at this stage.

Constitutional reform is a task that should be tackled from the bottom to the top to allow participation by the majority of people in the country, she said.

"Carrying out constitutional reform is like making a garment that must fit the person's needs," the president said. "It is important to have experienced people taking part in the discussions so that the reform will fit Taiwan's current needs."

Turning to the issue of the country's president giving a state of the nation address in the Legislature, Tsai said she would not rule out the possibility of becoming the first Taiwan president to do so, if it was something the majority of people wanted.

Under the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China, the president is allowed to give a state of the nation address in the Legislature but it has never been done in Taiwan's democratic history.

On the question of whether the timing of a constitutional reform referendum would be tied to the election cycle, the president said she was not thinking along those lines and that it would all depend on how the issue evolved.

Local government elections are due in Taiwan in 2018, and presidential and legislative elections in 2020.

Addressing a firestorm over recent comments by newly appointed Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), the president said Lai is fully aware of the government's overall policy goals and understands very well "what the limits are."

On Sept. 26, Lai said in his first report to the Legislature that he was "a pragmatic supporter of Taiwan independence."

"The two sides of the Taiwan Strait are independent of each other, with Taiwan being an independent sovereign state carrying the designation the 'Republic of China,'" Lai said in response to lawmakers' questions about his views on cross-strait issues.

His comments sparked a firestorm at home and drew attention in the international community, including in China and the United States, which prompted the Presidential Office to issue a statement emphasizing that the government had not changed its cross-strait policy.

In a follow-up statement on Sept. 29, Lai said in a legislative hearing that the president was responsible for cross-strait policy and that in his role as premier, he would adhere to Tsai's policy of maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

(By Lu Hsin-hui, Yeh Su-ping and Flor Wang)

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