Chen may seek to change Constitution

AP, The Straits Times, 14 November 2000

Faced with an opposition threat to oust him, Taiwan’s President is looking to alter the balance of power between him and the legislature.

TAIPEI—President Chen Shui-bian may allow constitutional changes to resolve a dispute over the balance of power between him and the opposition-controlled legislature, said a presidential spokesman

Mr Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday without elaborating that, if necessary, Mr Chen would call a national-affairs conference to discuss how to fix any defects in the island’s political system.

Past councils have been made up of political leaders, scholars and other influential people.

The announcement was aimed at a three-party coalition that controls the legislature and is threatening to oust Mr Chen.

Opposition parties have accused the five-month-old government of violating the Constitution by deciding to scrap a partially-built nuclear plant.

They said the legislature should have had a say in last month’s decision.

The coalition favours a dual-leadership system, with a president whose power is countered by a premier, who must obey the legislature.

Now, the Taiwanese leader can appoint the Premier, even though the President’s party does not have a majority in the legislature. The Premier’s main job is to deal with the legislature.

In the United States, different parties can also control the presidency and the legislature.

But the US differs from Taiwan in that the US President can veto legislation, so the President and lawmakers have to compromise on legislation or face gridlock and risk the wrath of the voters.

In Taiwan, Mr Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party has been opposed to setting up a dual leadership system, fearing that the President could become just a figurehead if the opposition Kuomintang—which controls the legislature—had its way.

Opposition lawmakers have still not decided when to begin the recall process for Mr Chen.

They were to have voted on a Bill to amend the island’s electoral laws, enabling a motion to dismiss the President to go before Parliament.