China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 27, 2015
Executive Summary: The Legislative Yuan is once again debating constitutional amendments. The ruling and opposition parties are close to agreement on one issue -- lowering the voting age from 20 to 18. The KMT also wants an absentee voting system written into the constitution, but has met with DPP opposition. The KMT has proposed a constitutional amendment to restore the legislature's power of consent on prime ministerial appointments. The DPP also opposes this.
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The Legislative Yuan is once again debating constitutional amendments. The ruling and opposition parties are close to agreement on one issue -- lowering the voting age from 20 to 18. The KMT also wants an absentee voting system written into the constitution, but has met with DPP opposition. The KMT has proposed a constitutional amendment to restore the legislature's power of consent on prime ministerial appointments. The DPP also opposes this.
DPP chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen said the purpose of constitutional amendments is to solve problems, not fulfill the political needs of any one political party. She said that political parties must not attempt to hijack the constitutional amendments by means of package deals. Tsai advocated current stage amendments, saying the most important task is increasing political participation. She said the current constitutional amendment proposal lowering the voting age from 20 to 18, allows more people to participate. Lowering the threshold for non-constituency legislators increases public representation in the legislature. Lowering the threshold for constitutional amendments enhances the people's right to amend the constitution. She said the proposed amendments highlight the fact that the people are the heart of democracy. Increased political participation will make Taiwan's democracy more robust and sound.
Chairperson Tsai's words sound pretty. Constitutional amendments do require comprehensive, rational consideration. In any democracy, constitutional amendments are national events. They require wide-ranging public discussion to arrive at the greatest social consensus. They must not benefit only one party or faction. They must not involve quid pro quo deals between special interests. Chairperson Tsai has rightly accused the KMT of improper political quid pro quo exchanges. But her harsh criticisms suggest another possibility. Are they the beginning of a constitutional debate? Or are they merely one political party's election season political calculations?
Constitutional amendments require social consensus. The amendments must not benefit one particular party or faction. We need more political persuasion, and fewer political accusations. Political parties invariably villify each other the most harshly during major elections for maximum political advantage. Constitutional debate requires a high degree of political consensus for good results. Anyone with even a modicum of political sense knows that debating constitutional amendments during election season is futile. It is likely nothing will come of it. Nevertheless political parties and politicians on Taiwan invariably demand constitutional amendments during election season.
Constitutional debate seldom involves sincerity and mutual concessions. The slightest disagreement usually degenerates into political recriminations. Once such recriminations are made public, constitutional amendments inevitably become more difficult to pass. Political parties insist on debating constitutional issues during election season. Their motive is seldom getting the amendment passed. It is usually to bolster their election campaign and get a leg up on their opponent. When political parties openly clash on constitutional issues, are they really engaged in the constitutional amendment process? Or are they merely out to paint their opponent as inferior specimens of democracy?
Lowering the voting age is said to increase political participation. If that is good, then why oppose absentee voting, which also increases political participation? The two parties have taken stands on constitutional issues. Which did so out of anything but political calculation? They accuse their opponents of insincerity. But isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?
Is lowering the voting age to 18 really a social consensus, or merely a unilateral proposal by a particular political party or political faction? Polls have already shown that opponents outnumber proponents. Taiwan has many polling organizations. Perhaps they should conduct polls on this issue to see if it has a high degree of public support.
Constitutional amendments are national events. Legislative Yuan constitutional amendments require comprehensive thought, not the random application of patches. On Taiwan, 20-year-olds are considered adults. Adult citizens have the right to vote. The reasoning is clear. If the voting age is lowered to 18, shouldn't the civil law age for majority be amended as well? Can the legislature completely ignore this problem and not discuss it? An 18-year-old is a minor. According to civil law he is limited in his capacity. To sign a contract he requires legal representation. Yet he is now going to vote? Does this not call for some explanation?
Are these issues unrelated? If they are, why not lower the voting age to 17, 16, or even 15? Does the legislature intend to amend the constitution first then the civil law? If so, shouldn't this be debated? Shouldn't reasons be given for doing so? Should the age of majority be lowered in order to increase political participation? Should the civil law be amended first and the last? If the amendment fails to pass, should the civil law be amended? These questions have never even been mentioned. How can this be considered a comprehensive amendment process?
This is even more true for phase two constitutional amendments. The assertion is that the threshold for constitutional amendments is too high. But the last time the constitution was amended, the political parties agreed to set the threshold high in order to prevent any one particular political party from amending the constitution unilaterally, and to avoid overly hasty constitutional amendments. Were they wrong then? Are they right now? Is half the voters as the threshold for constitutional amendments really high enough? Is such a constitutional amendment merely being promoted for its own sake? Are constitutional amendments for their own sake the real purpose?
朝野政黨看法較為接近的一項修憲議題，是將行使投票權的年齡自2 0歲調降為18歲。國民黨同時主張， 應將不在籍投票的制度一併寫入《憲法》，則是遭到民進黨的反對。 國民黨提議修憲恢復立法院的閣揆同意權，民進黨也不贊成。
修憲是要解決國家運作的問題，不是滿足政黨利益， 任何政黨都不該以包裹處理的方式，相互綁架個別修憲主張。 蔡也主張本階段修憲，最重要的意義在於擴大人民政治參與； 在這次修憲提案中，18歲公民權與20歲被選舉權是要賦予更多人 民參政權，降低政黨不分區門檻是要擴大國會的民意代表性， 降低修憲門檻則是要賦予人民修憲提案權， 這都是要彰顯人民才是民主政治的核心；以更多的政治參與， 使得台灣的民主更為健全茁壯。
確實有討論商量的必要。對任何民主國家而言，修憲都是國家大事， 應該盡量從事社會多元觀點的廣泛討論，求取最大的社會共識， 既不能只是一黨一派的主張，也不該從事利益交換。 蔡主席指責國民黨從事政治交換的方法不當，義正詞嚴，很有道理。 但是嚴厲指責的背後，也透露出另外一種訊息供人思考， 此中究竟是修憲討論的開誠布公， 還是政黨選舉的政治利益算計更多一些？
討論修憲的過程中，尤其需要更大的耐性從事政治說服， 不需要的則是政治指責。其實，大型政治選舉期間， 向來都是政黨相互指責最烈以求取選舉政治利益的時刻， 最不利於從事需要高度政黨共識才能成就善果的修憲討論。 稍有政治常識者都會知道，在大選期間討論修憲是緣木求魚， 一事無成的可能性極高；偏偏台灣的政黨或政治人物， 總是偏好在選舉期間提出修憲主張。
一言不合就從事政治指責的機會多，一旦公開嚴詞批判譴責， 恐怕只會增加修憲的困難。政黨在選舉期間提出修憲議題， 其實此中獲致修憲圓滿成功的理性祈願少， 政治造勢以攫取選舉競爭利益的企圖多。 政黨在修憲議題上公然相互傾軋，哪裡是真的想修憲？ 不外就是要在選舉中， 取得更多證明對手是民主政治劣等生的相罵本罷了。
那何以成就不在籍投票就不是擴大政治參與呢？ 兩個政黨在修憲議題的選擇上，誰沒有爭取選票利益的算計呢？ 指責對手修憲誠意不足，大哥就不必取笑二哥了吧！
真的是社會共識而不只是政治黨派的片面主張嗎？ 已有民意調查顯示，社會上不贊成調降的民意比率高於贊成者， 台灣從事民調的單位相當多，不妨各家都做一做民調， 公布看看這個主張是不是屬於已有高度社會共識的議題。
不宜只從一點切入，修到哪算到哪。在台灣，20歲是成年年齡， 成年的公民取得投票權，道理很清楚。若要調降投票年齡到18歲， 成年年齡是否也要一併修改《民法》加以調整， 立法院可以完全不加思考、不予討論嗎？18歲是未成年人，《 民法》上稱為限制行為能力人，簽訂契約尚且需要法定代理人同意， 成為可以投票的公民，不需要一些解釋嗎？
5歲？如果立法院是要先修憲再修《民法》， 應不應該一併討論並提出如此行事的理由？ 包括為什麼應該為了擴大政治參與而下修成年年齡， 或是為什麼不能先修《民法》再修憲，或是修憲不成時《民法》 上的成年年齡還修不修等等道理在內。這些道理連提都不提， 算是周延的修憲思考嗎？恐怕聽聽就好吧！
門檻設得高，不是上次修憲時，各政黨同意為了防止一黨修憲， 避免修憲過於草率頻繁的共識產物嗎？怎麼又昨非而今是了呢？ 以選民的半數做為修憲的門檻，真的過高嗎？ 如此主張是為了修憲而修憲嗎？為了修憲而修憲， 真正的目的又何在呢？