New Taipei mayor favors France's semi-presidential system: Report

Chief of Kuomintang Eric Chu.

TAIPEI - New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, who is set to become the leader of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), reiterated yesterday his call for Taiwan to adopt a parliamentary system to remedy government dysfunction, with a report claiming he is eyeing an institution modeled on France's Fifth Republic.

Chu said the political institution in Taiwan has been seriously malfunctioning because of a lack of balance between power and responsibility.

"The parliamentary system is the best political system (for Taiwan)," Chu told a KMT rally in Tainan as he solicited support for his bid to become the ruling party's next chairman.

The mayor, as the only candidate in the upcoming KMT chairmanship race, is set to win by default, shouldering the heavy burden of reforming a party that suffered a humiliating defeat in local elections two months ago.

Chu said the KMT will regain voters' support as long as it sides with the people.

The present presidential system has been heavily criticised for giving the president the real powers without requiring the head of state to face the parliament. Political liability is all assumed by the premier that the president appoints.

Chu has been promoting a switch to a parliamentary system, but he has yet to openly spell out his version of such a system.

The United Evening News cited unnamed KMT sources as indicating that Chu favors the semi-presidential system embraced by the French Fifth Republic, in which the president still controls national defence and foreign affairs.

The incoming KMT chairman is worried that the people in Taiwan may not accept a complete switch to a parliamentary system in which the president is merely a figurehead, according to the paper.

Chu's design will still have the president popularly elected, and the head of state will retain powers over national defence, foreign policies and cross-strait affairs.

The president's powers over these policies would be clearly written in the constitution, preventing the head of state from interfering with the premier's authority over all other matters of the government, the paper said.

Chu said during the KMT rally in Tainan that to support the parliamentary system, he is seeking changes to the election law, lowering the threshold to let smaller parties have better chances of obtaining seats in parliament.

The voting age will also be lowered to 18 from the present 20, he said.

He called on the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party to stop political bickering and work with the KMT on introducing constitutional reforms.

The DPP legislative caucus is set to hold an internal meeting later this week to discuss the party's constitutional reform package.

Legislator Lee Chun-yi, who heads the DPP caucus' constitutional reform task force, urged Chu to honour his promise for reform.