Enactment and features
The ROC Constitution was adopted on December 25, 1946, by the National Assembly convened in Nanking. It was promulgated by the National Government on January 1, 1947, and put into effect on December 25 of the same year. In addition to the preamble, the Constitution comprises 175 articles in 14 chapters. In essence the Constitution embodies the ideal of "sovereignty of the people," guarantees human rights and freedoms, provides for a central government with five branches and a local self-government system, ensures a balanced division of powers between the central and local governments, and stipulates fundamental national policies.
In the face of the Chinese communist threat, the National Assembly on April 18, 1948, added to the Constitution a set of Temporary Provisions Effective during the Period of Communist Rebellion. Promulgated by the National Government on May 10 of the same year, the Temporary Provisions which superseded the Constitution were designed to enhance presidential power during the emergency period of communist uprising. For example, the president was empowered during the Period of Communist Rebellion to take emergency measures to avert imminent danger to the security of the nation or of the people, establish an organ for making major policy decisions concerned with national mobilization and suppression of the Communist rebellion, make adjustments in the administrative and personnel organs of the central government, and initiate regulations governing the elections for additional seats in the three parliamentary bodies. In addition, the Temporary Provisions allowed for the president and the vice president to be re-elected without being subject to the two-term restriction prescribed in Article 47 of the Constitution.
Following a radically changed domestic situation and reduced tension in the Taiwan Strait in the late 1980s, the National Assembly on April 22, 1991, resolved to abolish the Temporary Provisions with a view toward fostering the healthy development of constitutional democracy and enhancing social harmony and progress. On April 30 of the same year, President Lee Teng-hui announced that the Period of Communist Rebellion would be terminated on May 1.
Notwithstanding the termination of the Period of Communist Rebellion, some of the articles in the Constitution remained inapplicable to the Taiwan area. To meet the current demands of constitutional rule before national unification, the First National Assembly, at its second extraordinary session in April 1991, adopted ten amendments to the Constitution. Promulgated by the president on May 1 of the same year, the highlights of these additional articles are: (1) to provide for regular elections for the Legislative Yuan and the National Assembly; (2) to authorize the president to issue emergency decrees to avert imminent danger to the security of the nation or of the people; (3) to stipulate that rights and obligations between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait may be specially regulated by law.
After the Second National Assembly was elected in December 1991, it met for its first extraordinary session from March to May of the following year. On May 27, 1992, eight amendments were adopted by the Assembly and promulgated by the president on May 28. The highlights of these additional articles are as follows: (1) when the National Assembly convenes, it may hear a report on the state of the nation by the president. Beginning with the Third National Assembly, delegates to the National Assembly shall be elected every four years; (2) the president and the vice president shall be elected by the people in the free area of the Republic of China for, at most, two terms of four years each; (3) local self-government is granted a legal basis and the provincial governor and municipal mayors shall be elected by popular vote; (4) members of the Control Yuan, heretofore elected by the provincial and municipal councils, shall be nominated by the president, and presidential nominations to the Examination Yuan, Judicial Yuan, and Control Yuan shall be subject to the consent of the National Assembly; (5) the focus of fundamental national policies is expanded to include promotion of culture, science and technology, environmental protection, and economic development, and to safeguard the interests of women, aborigines, the handicapped, and the people of offshore islands; and (6) the grand justices of the Judicial Yuan shall form a constitutional tribunal to adjudicate on the dissolution of political parties for constitutional violations.
In July 1994, during its fourth extraordinary session, the Second National Assembly adopted ten new amendments to replace the aforementioned eighteen amendments. Promulgated by the president on August 1 of the same year, among other matters these ten articles stipulate that: (1) beginning with the Third National Assembly, the National Assembly shall have a speaker and a deputy speaker; (2) the president and vice president shall be elected by direct popular vote, while a recall of the president and the vice president must be proposed by the National Assembly and such proposal shall be decided by a vote of the people; and (3) presidential orders to appoint or remove from office personnel appointed with the confirmation of the National Assembly or Legislative Yuan in accordance with the Constitution do not require the counter-signature of the premier.
During its second session, the Third National Assembly adopted eleven new amendments in June and July of 1997 to replace the above-mentioned ten amendments. Promulgated by the president on July 21 of the same year, the most important stipulations are: (1) the president of the Executive Yuan shall be appointed by the president, requiring no consent of the Legislative Yuan; (2) the president may, within ten days following the passage by the Legislative Yuan of a no-confidence vote against the president of the Executive Yuan, declare the dissolution of the Legislative Yuan after consulting with its president; (3) the power to impeach the president or the vice president shall be transferred from the Control Yuan to the Legislative Yuan, and such action shall be initiated for high treason or rebellion only; (4) the Executive Yuan may request the Legislative Yuan to reconsider the passage of a bill that it deems difficult to execute; but, should more than one-half, rather than two-thirds, of the total number of Legislative Yuan members uphold the original passage of the bill, the president of the Executive Yuan shall immediately accept said bill; (5) the Legislative Yuan shall have 225 members starting with the Fourth Legislative Yuan; (6) beginning from the year 2003, the Judicial Yuan shall have 15 grand justices, including a president and a vice president of the Judicial Yuan. Each grand justice of the Judicial Yuan shall serve a term of eight years, independent of the order of appointment to office, and shall not serve consecutive terms; (7) the budget of the Judicial Yuan shall be independent, no longer requiring the approval of the Executive Yuan; (8) Taiwan provincial elections shall be suspended; Taiwan province shall have a provincial government and a provincial advisory council; the members of the provincial government, one of whom shall be the provincial governor, shall be nominated by the president of the Executive Yuan and appointed by the president of the Republic; (9) the State shall assist and protect the survival and development of small and medium enterprises; and (10) the requirement of minimum funding for education, science and culture shall be abolished.
On September 3, 1999, the Third National Assembly adopted amendments to Articles 1, 4, 9, and 10 in its fourth session. Promulgated by the president on September 15 of the same year, the amendments provide as follows: (1) The Fourth National Assembly shall have 300 delegates, and beginning with the Fifth National Assembly, the National Assembly shall have 150 delegates, who shall be elected by proportional representation based on the composition of the Legislative Yuan. The seats shall be distributed among the participating political parties, in accordance with the proportion of votes won by the candidates nominated by each party and those members of the parties running as independent candidates. (2) Should an election of the Legislative Yuan be held during the National Assembly's tenure, the National Assembly shall also be re-elected. A delegate who is re-elected may serve consecutive terms. The term of office of the Third National Assembly shall be extended to the day when the term of office of the Fourth Legislative Yuan expires. The provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 28 of the Constitution shall not apply. (3) The term of office of the Fourth Legislative Yuan shall be extended to June 30, 2002. The Fifth Legislative Yuan shall serve a four-year term of office, beginning on July 1, 2002. A delegate who is re-elected may serve consecutive terms. The election of a new Legislative Yuan shall be held within sixty days before the expiration of the term of office or sixty days after the dissolution of the Legislative Yuan. (4) The State shall emphasize social welfare services. Priority shall be given to funding social relief and assistance, and employment for citizens. (5) The State shall guarantee the welfare and livelihood of retired military servicemen. (6) In addition to the people of Kinmen and Matsu, the State shall now additionally protect and assist the people of Penghu.
In April 2000, the fifth session of the Third National Assembly amended the Additional Articles of the Constitution on a comprehensive basis. The amendments were approved on April 24, 2000 and were promulgated by the President the next day. Highlights of the amendments were as follows. (1) The National Assembly shall have 300 delegates, who shall be elected by proportional representation within six months following the Legislative Yuan's publication of its proposal to amend the Constitution or change the nation's territorial boundaries, or three months following its proposal to impeach the president or vice president. The process of proportional representation election shall be prescribed by law. (2) A provisional National Assembly is to vote on the Legislative Yuan's proposal to amend the Constitution, change the nation's territorial boundaries or impeach the president or vice president. (3) The National Assembly shall be convened within ten days after the election outcome is confirmed. The session shall last no more than one month and the tenure of the delegates shall terminate on the day when the session ends. The tenure of the members of the Third National Assembly shall expire on May 19, 2000. (4) Should the office of the vice president become vacant, the power to elect a new vice president shall be transferred to the Legislative Yuan. (5) The recall of the president or the vice president shall be transferred to the Legislative Yuan and voted upon by the entire populace. (6) The Legislative Yuan shall hear a report on the state of the nation by the President during its annual session. (7) The territory of the nation according to its existing national boundaries shall not be altered except by resolution of the Legislative Yuan and consent of the National Assembly. (8) Article 81 of the Constitution and the relevant regulations regarding holding office for life shall not be applicable for a grand justice of the Judicial Yuan unless he has been transferred from the post of judge. (9) The power of consent to confirm the appointment of personnel to the Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan and Control Yuan nominated by the President shall be transferred to the Legislative Yuan.
On August 23, 2004, the Fifth Legislative Yuan passed its first proposed revision of the Constitution of the Republic of China since the Constitution was implemented. The Legislative Yuan announced its proposal on August 26, 2004. On June 7, 2005, the National Assembly approved the Legislature’s proposed revision to Articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, as well as the addition of Article 12 to the Constitution of the ROC. The revision, which came as the 7th revision of the Constitution, was ratified by the president on June 10, 2005. The revised content is as follows:
- The territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries, shall not be altered unless initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, passed by at least three-fourths of the members present at a meeting attended by at least three-fourths of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, and sanctioned by electors in the free area of the Republic of China at a referendum held upon expiration of a six-month period of public announcement of the proposal, wherein the number of valid votes in favor exceeds one-half of the total number of electors.
- Amendment of the Constitution shall be initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, passed by at least three-fourths of the members present at a meeting attended by at least three-fourths of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, and sanctioned by electors in the free area of the Republic of China at a referendum held upon expiration of a six-month period of public announcement of the proposal, wherein the number of valid votes in favor exceeds one-half of the total number of electors.
- Beginning with the Seventh Legislative Yuan, the Legislative Yuan shall have 113 members, who shall serve a term of four years.
- Members to fill the legislative seats shall be elected as follows: (1) Seventy-three members shall be elected from the Special Municipalities, counties, and cities in the free area. At least one member shall be elected from each county and city. These areas shall be divided into electoral constituencies equal in number to the number of members to be elected. (2) Three members each shall be elected from among the lowland and highland aborigines in the free area. (3) A total of thirty-four members shall be elected from the nationwide constituency and among citizens residing abroad. (4) Members to fill the seats shall be elected from the lists of political parties in proportion to the number of votes won by each party that obtains at least 5 percent of the total vote, and the number of elected female members on each party's list shall not be less than one-half of the total number.
- Impeachment of the president or the vice president by the Legislative Yuan shall be initiated upon the proposal of more than one-half of the total members of the Legislative Yuan and passed by more than two-thirds of the total members of the Legislative Yuan, whereupon it shall be presented to the grand justices of the Judicial Yuan for adjudication.
The five main points of the seventh revision are as follows:
- Halving the number of seats in the legislature, from 225 to 113.
- Changing the legislative term of office from three to four years.
- Establishing a single-constituency, two-ballot system.
- Abolishing the National Assembly and transferring the power to vote on constitutional amendments from the National Assembly to the voters of Taiwan.
- Transferring the power to impeach the president and the vice president to the grand justices.