Constitution does not reflect reality

Editorial, Taipai Times, Monday 17 December 2001, Page 8

The nation’s Constitution was enacted in China more than half a century ago with the people of Taiwan having no say in its creation. The people sent to China for the constitutional conferences did not represent Taiwanese public opinion. It is therefore extremely unfair that the people of Taiwan must accept as the basis for all their laws and regulations a Constitution adopted in China in 1947—a Constitution that has frequently caused political difficulties.

The most frequently ridiculed part of the Constitution is its insistence that the ROC’s territory still includes all of China, including Outer Mongolia, which has long been the independent Republic of Mongolia. This ludicrous territorial claim, combined with the stubbornness and shallowness of the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) government, led to Taiwan’s ouster from the UN. It has also facilitated the Beijing government’s claim that Taiwan is a local government under its jur-isdiction. Apart from the Feb. 28 massacre and the subsequent White Terror persecution, this ridiculous state of affairs is the most damaging thing done to the people of Taiwan by the Chiang regime.

Following Taiwan’s speedy democratization, the significance of the Constitution has been reduced to almost that of a historical document. It is at odds with the realities of democratic politics Taiwan has been practicing for many years. Not in its articles nor in its spirit does the Constitution reflect the overall direction of Taiwan’s democratization, despite the minor amendments made by the previous KMT government.

Since Taiwan abolished the National Assembly and began holding direct presidential elections, the Presidential Office and the Legislative Yuan have become the main seats of power in Taiwan’s democratic political system. Meanwhile, party politics has also taken root. However, the semi-presidential system adopted in the Constitution is an obstacle to the realization of political accountability. For example, while the elected president should have executive power, he should also take political responsibility and be effectively monitored by the legislative branch. But these key mechanisms for constitutional politics do not exist. This has led to situations in which the elected president’s power does not match his responsibilities.

Such situations do not bode well for the development of constitutional politics in Taiwan. We do not believe the French semi-presidential system can thoroughly resolve the deep-seated problems in Taiwan’s Constitution. A US-style presidential system would better suit the general direction of Taiwan’s political development. Also, the unwieldy five-branch structure of Taiwan’s constitution has proven, after so many years of implementation, to be at odds with the principles of power distribution and balance. It should be amended into a three-branch structure.

Certainly, constitutional amendments should not be done in a hurry. Professor Lee Hong-hsi (李鴻禧), an authoritative scholar in constitutional studies, has for many years called on the government to set up an organization consisting of well-known constitutional experts from both at home and abroad. Let them present a report within a set period of time. Then political parties and other civic organizations should conduct debates on the basis of their findings. A public referendum should also be conducted if necessary. Then we can create a Constitution acceptable to a majority of the people.