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SLUG: 2-325093 Taiwan / Constitution (L-only)







HEADLINE: Taiwan's National Assembly Passes Constitutional Amendments

INTRO: Taiwan's National Assembly has passed a set of amendments to the island's constitution that analysts say could change Taiwan's political landscape. VOA's Heda Bayron has more from Hong Kong.

TEXT: The National Assembly voted Tuesday to halve the number of lawmakers in the 225-seat Parliament, institute a single constituency election system and put future constitutional amendments in the hands of Taiwanese voters.

The assembly approved the amendments by an overwhelming majority.

Political analysts say the changes will redraw Taiwan's political landscape in favor of the island's dominant political parties - the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party or DPP and the opposition Kuomintang or KMT.

The single constituency system narrows down the number of representatives from each district to two. Analysts say this puts smaller parties at a disadvantage against their bigger rivals with larger budgets and greater political machinery to mount campaigns.

Dachi Liao is a political science professor at Taiwan's National Sun Yat Sen University.

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"We may only have a two-party system. That means smaller parties would lose their chance to win elections and would gradually merge into the big ones like the KMT and DPP. They may push Taiwan public opinion (to be) further polarized."

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By voting to allow Taiwanese voters to decide future constitutional changes, the National Assembly - which once selected presidents - dissolved itself. Any future amendments now will have to be endorsed by at least half of Taiwan's eligible voters.

Ms. Liao says that requirement creates a high mark for Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian to meet.

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"We require constitutional amendments to be passed in future (by) eight million-something votes. Presidential elections usually show the highest votes, Chen Shui-bian last year only got six million votes."

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The issue of referendums has worried the communist government in mainland China, which fears Taiwan President Chen would use them to pursue formal independence for the island.

Taiwan been separately governed since 1949, when Nationalist forces fled there after losing a war against the communists. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and says it will reunite the island with the mainland by force if necessary. (Signed)


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