Constitutional revision to lower voting age passes committee review
Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) A constitutional amendment that would see the voting age in Taiwan lowered to 18 from 20 passed the committee review stage at the Legislative Yuan Tuesday.
The lawmaking body's ad-hoc Constitutional Amendment Committee approved the amendment, which was co-sponsored by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan People's Party (TPP), and the New Power Party (NPP), and seeks to bring the voting age in line with most other democratic countries.
Barring objections or proposed revisions requiring inter-party negotiations in the interim, the bill in its current form will clear the committee and be forwarded to a second reading on Jan. 22.
Some 14 lawmakers from the Kuomintang (KMT), the largest opposition party in the Legislature, did not attend the meeting as part of an ongoing protest against the DPP for setting the agenda for the 39-member committee in a meeting on Jan. 6 without the presence of the KMT.
The proposed amendment would grant a Taiwanese citizen who is 18 years of age and above the right to vote. It would also pave the way for further legislation to lower the minimum age for running as a candidate in an election from the current 23 years old.
At a press conference prior to Tuesday's committee meeting, TPP Legislator Jang Chyi-lu (張其祿) said all three parties had reached a consensus over the issue, despite having minor differences such as where the amendment should be placed in the Constitution.
Jang said he looked forward to seeing lawmakers set their differences aside and make some progress in the legislation as soon as possible.
NPP Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) said the constitutional revision was long overdue as Taiwan had fallen behind many countries that have lowered the voting age to 18.
Chiu said he hopes the amendment would clear the Legislature soon so it can be put to a vote in a referendum.
According to the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China, amendments must first clear the Legislature with the approval of at least three-quarters of the lawmakers present at a meeting attended by at least three-quarters of all the lawmakers.
Based on the current distribution of seats in the 113-seat Legislature, where the DPP holds 61 seats and the main opposition KMT holds 39, it would take cooperation between the two main parties for any constitutional amendment to clear the body.
Even if an amendment is approved by lawmakers, it must then be voted on in a national referendum and can only pass if half of all eligible voters cast ballots in favor of its passage.
Due to the high thresholds set for revising the Constitution, Taiwan last made constitutional amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 2005.
Speaking to CNA Tuesday, KMT Legislator Chen Yu-jen (陳玉珍) said the KMT supported the initiative to lower the voting age, but it strongly opposed the DPP deciding on the committee agenda without negotiating with the KMT, a move she described as lacking procedural justice.
Even if KMT members were present at the meeting on Jan. 6, it was likely that the committee, in which the DPP holds a majority of 21 seats, would agree to an agenda in DPP's favor.
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Chou Chun-mi (周春米) urged the KMT to stop boycotting meetings of the committee and take part in the subsequent legislative process.
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