Notes on Constitutional Change in the ROC: Presidential versus Parliamentary Government

"The debate over constitutional reform has moved to center stage in Taiwan, with a focus on two issues: the choice of presidential versus parliamentary government and a determination of the ultimate role of the National Assembly. These two issues, in turn, are linked by a third — whether the president ought to be elected indirectly by the National Assembly or directly in a mass popular vote. Of these issues, though, the choice between a presidential and a parliamentary system is central, because it requires that we consider the methods whereby chief executives and legislators are elected and, correspondingly, the role of the National Assembly. Beginning, then, with the issue of presidential versus parliamentary government, this essay argues that the most commonly cited arguments over the advisability of choosing one or the other of these two forms are, for the most part, theoretically meaningless and are largely rhetorical devices for rationalizing prejudices about preferred governmental structures and the state's role. Consequently, we attempt here to provide a more useful set of criteria with which to evaluate reform in general and the choice between presidential and parliamentary government in particular. We conclude that although the choice between presidential and parliamentary forms is important, equal attention should be given to the methods whereby a president and the legislature are elected. It is these institutional parameters that determine the character of political parties in Taiwan, their ability to accommodate any mainlander-native Taiwanese conflict, and the likelihood that executive and legislative branches will formulate coherent domestic and international policy."
constitution, governance and politics, presidency