President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan to hold a referendum on a new constitution in 2007 has little chance of gaining approval from the opposition-dominated Legislature, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday.
Wang, who will attend the inauguration of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on behalf of Chen later this month, said that by promoting a new constitution, Chen meant to bolster Taiwan sovereignty, a campaign that Wang speculated will place more emphasis on the process than the outcome.
In his New Year's Day address, Chen said a referendum on a new constitution for Taiwan is possible in 2007 if social conditions have matured by that time. He painted the agenda as the country's overall goal that greatly signifies Taiwan's historic transfer of power in 2000.
Still, Wang said the effort to write a new constitution through a referendum is unlikely to succeed since all constitutional reform proposals must obtain three-fourth approval from the lawmakers.
In addition, Chen said he intends to hold 10,000 seminars on constitutional reform, with the help of the private sector, to build consensus among the nation. Wang said this is part of the campaign to consolidate pro-independence supporters.
Chen has voiced a wish to make the nation's charter more in tune with Taiwan's modern needs before his tenure expires in May 2008. To that end, the Presidential Office has set up a constitutional reform task force to consult grassroots opinions.
Lee Chun-yi, head of the constitutional reform task force, said he hoped the reform package could be submitted to the Legislature in the fall session in September so the nation can call a referendum on the issue, together with the legislative elections in 2007.
Lee said his task force will not draw up its own reform draft but will serve as a platform of communications. He conceded that the proposed reform, whatever its final wording, will have difficulty clearing the Legislature where opposition lawmakers control a majority of seats.
But Lee noted that the country revised the Constitution several times in the last decade when many people considered the revisions unlikely, if not impossible, at first.
Regarding Chen's statements that the government will adopt a "proactive management, Wang also confirmed he will visit Honduras in late January to take part in the Southern American ally's inauguration of a new president.
The speaker said he will make a stopover in Washington and have conversations with some "old friends" on Capitol Hill. But Wang denied that he will pass on messages for Chen or talk about the arms procurement plan with his American friends.
Commenting on Chen's intent to tighten cross-strait trade and economic activities, Wang said that it is premature to say the administration has decided to adjust its cross-strait policy following the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's defeat in the recent elections for local governors.
A more reliable indicator, the speaker noted, is how the DPP government enforces its regulations on cross-strait investment.
However, Wang said he believed the government should adopt a more liberal attitude in dealing with the policy area since the public and the business community both favor more active cross-strait exchanges.
The speaker reiterated the belief that cross-strait ties can be improved if the government agrees to recognize the "1992 consensus" and resume dialogue with Beijing based on the consensus.
He declined to discuss a potential Cabinet reshuffle, saying Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is a better candidate to address the matter to.