Opposition parties react differently to Tsai’s invitation to talk

Kuomintang Chairman Wu Den-yih, left, discusses with Premier William Lai during the National Day celebrations held on Oct. 10, 2017 in front of the Presidential Office. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – Opposition parties in Taiwan on Tuesday reacted differently to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) invitation to political party leaders to sit down and exchange views on constitutional and other reforms.

In her National Day address earlier Tuesday, Tsai invited political party leaders to exchange opinions with her on constitutional reform, other domestic reforms and issues such as safeguarding the nation’s democracy and freedom.

Tsai, also chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party, recently demanded that the party consider amending the Constitution to lower the voting age to 18, add human rights clauses, and change how seats in the Legislative Yuan are apportioned.

In response to the invitation, Lee Ming-hsien (李明賢), director of the Kuomintang’s Culture and Communications Committee, said he was skeptical about the president’s sincerity.

Over the past year, the ruling party has used its majority in the Legislative Yuan to force through several bills, such as the new work day rules, and have done so by trampling on public opinion, Lee said in a statement.

“Does this show any goodwill and sincerity to the opposition parties?” he asked.

He urged the president to detail how she plans to resolve the cross-strait deadlock, safeguard Taiwan’s democracy and grow its economy, instead of uttering slogans.

“It’s just rhetoric,” Kuomintang legislative caucus convener Lin Te-fu (林德福) told CNA. He said if Tsai is serious about constitutional reform, she should first propose changing the current system to a parliamentary system, as she has advocated in the past.

KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said later, however, that he will not turn down the meeting if the topics and format are appropriate.

The People First Party and New Power Party, meanwhile, were open to the idea of a meeting between political party leaders.

In a statement, the People First Party said a meeting between party leaders to discuss national affairs is a starting point to resolving internal disputes.

The party is willing to participate in the dialogue, but will make a final decision after reviewing the issues to be discussed and the attitude of the organizer, it said.

Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), legislative caucus leader of the New Power Party, told CNA that he believes constitutional reform is only possible after political parties have reached a consensus, but he is open to the idea of having party leaders meet first.

He said Tsai’s expression of gratitude to three of the former presidents and her call for unity are important preconditions for constitutional reform.

In her National Day address, Tsai expressed her appreciation to the three popularly-elected former presidents, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Each of them represented a different period in Taiwan’s pursuit of democracy and freedom and left their respective legacies on the development of Taiwan, she said.

Peng Huei-en (彭懷恩), a part-time visiting professor at Shih Hsin University’s Department of Journalism, said the key is the nature of the constitutional reform.

Most people will not oppose lowering the voting age to 18, or

changing to either a presidential system or a parliamentary system, from Taiwan’s current hybrid system, Peng said.

But any changes made to articles concerning cross-strait relations should be treated with extra caution, he said.

For example, the words “to meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification…” in the Additional Articles of the Constitution should not be modified, he said.

Peng said each political party should propose their own versions of constitutional reform before they sit down and talk.

By Wang Cheng-chung, Lu Hsin-hui and Christie Chen