Voters to elect NA members today to revise Constitution
The China Post staff
May 14, 2005, 12:00 am TWN
Taiwan voters will elect today 300 National Assembly (NA) delegates among the candidates nominated by 12 political parties and other organizations charged with the task of revise the nation's constitution.
Although there are more than 16.7 million eligible voters in Taiwan and offshore islands, there has also been a lack of interest in the election.
The bad weather and massive floods in some areas could further dampen the voters turnout. Some officials estimated the turnout as low as 40 percent.
Latest opinion polls have indicated more than 70 per cent of the voters are aware of the election, but less than 40 per cent say they will show up for the vote.
Yet government and party leaders made the last-ditch efforts yesterday to urge the people to come out and cast ballots for their candidates.
President Chen Shui-bian, Premier Frank Hsieh, and Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the NA election jointly held a press conference and held up placards marked with No. 8 — the number of the DPP in the election — to attract ballots.
The DPP aims to take between 120 and 122 seats in the sharp competition with the Kuomintang (KMT), the major opposition party that also aspires to take 120 seats.
The parties or organizations will get the number of seats according to the percentage of the total votes they win.
President Chen, a savvy election campaigners, took the initiative to appear on two TV channels for three nights in order to shift the public attention to the NA election from the sizzling "China fever" ignited by the successive trips to China by KMT Chairman Lien Chan and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong.
Hsieh and Su also got free media exposure by jointly appearing in an exclusive interview by the Formosa Television to appeal for support for the DPP.
There is a widespread concern that President Chen, who has been widely seen as leaning toward Taiwan independence, could use the NA election to push for the enactment of a new constitution and move to realize independence.
To mitigate the public fears and woo the politically moderate voters, Chen took a different tact by emphasizing that the upcoming meeting by the NA members will not transform inato a gathering that would draw up a new constitution and change the nation's official title.
"We cannot let Taiwan lose," said President Chen.
Chen has even accused PFP chairman Soong of collaborating with China to oppose the incorporation of the referendum in the constitution.
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Soong, who returned Friday from his nine-day China visit during which he met Chinese President Hu Jintao and came up with a compromising formula for the two sides to ease cross-Strait tensions, has backed down on the referendum incorporation plan.
Chen appealed to the public not to be influenced by apparent paradoxes and to cast their ballots for the DPP to help the party accomplish its long-term constitutional re-engineering bid and write a new page in Taiwan's history.
The president was referring to the Taiwan Solidarity Union, an ally of the DPP that has been trying to win votes from pro-independence supporters by strongly criticizing the ruling party for holding back from its promise to create a new constitution and give a new name to the country.
Hsieh also defended the DPP's constitutional reform bid, asserting that a constitution that is not adapted to the present day is a "moribund" one that will hollow out the government's power.
"In the face of the mainland visits by Lien and Soong that creates a China rush and takes away the focus of our constitutional reforms, we should never allow Taiwan to become the loser," said DPP Chairman Su in an open letter issued to the public Thursday.