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August 22, 2017

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NA begins new session today amid high hopes

The National Assembly, charged by President Chen Shui-bian with overseeing amendments to the Constitution, begins its new session today, amid high hopes that reform will be speedy.

Chen in his inauguration speech for his second term of office announced that this special assembly would have the sole mission of reforming the nation's Constitution to streamline government and make it more efficient.

As the assembly prepares to vote on the president's first wave of constitutional reforms, Chen yesterday called on his ruling Democratic Progressive Party National Assembly delegates to toe party line and vote in support of constitutional amendment package.

"There can be no dissenting or miscast votes," the president said, rallying the troops.

Chen said the constitutional amendments in the package, such as halving the nation's legislature and setting up a two vote system within a single seat electoral district, would have an impact on the DPP and there would be a period of adjustment.

"But everyone must cast aside their individual interests and the interests of political parties for the sake of long term national security and Taiwan's everlasting development," Chen said.

DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang also urged the delegates to toe the party line when voting on the constitutional amendments.

"No people should be absent from the voting, not one single vote should be in dissent," Su said.

Chen asked the delegates several times if anyone disagreed with the reforms.

When they all answered: "No", the president asked them to raise their right hands and pledge to vote in support of the reforms.

Meanwhile a poll revealed over half the public support the amendments and hope the assembly passes them speedily.

The survey found 52.2 percent of the public said they hoped the National Assembly would finish its session after 10 days. Less than one fifth of the public said they thought the assembly's session should last more than 10 days.

Almost half of respondents at 47.1 percent said National Assembly delegates should not back off from their party's line on passing the constitutional amendment package but 29.6 percent said they thought individual delegates should vote in violation of their party's original promise.

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The poll also found that the public thought it was more likely that opposition delegates would vote against the reforms than the DPP.

The poll found that 58.9 percent of the respondents support the amendment's proposal to down size the legislature and adopt a "single seat, two ballots" electoral system while only 9 percent said they were opposed to such a plan.

Meanwhile, 64 percent gave a thumbs-up to a proposal in the package to abolish the National Assembly and enshrine public referendums as a means to endorse or veto constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature. Only 10.8 percent rejected the proposal.

In the elections for National Assembly delegates on May 14, political parties and alliances supporting the constitutional amendment package garnered over 80 percent of the assembly's 300 seats.

The DPP and Kuomintang, which collectively control 244 seats, support the constitutional reform package. Smaller parties, such as the opposition People First Party and the DPP's ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, likely to be marginalized or eliminated under the new political system outlined in the reform package, oppose it.

This constitutional amendment package, which was approved by the Legislature last year, forms the first wave of the presidents' constitutional reforms. Once it is passed by the assembly, there will still be more reforms to come.

The telephone poll of 1,087 randomly chosen adults was conducted by the National Policy Research Foundation, a private think tank, between May 27 and May 28

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