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Constitution of the Republic of China

The Constitution of the Republic of China (中華民國憲法) is currently the basic governing document for the areas controlled by the Republic of China, namely all of Taiwan Province, Taipei and Kaohsiung municipalities, and Kinmen county and part of Lienchiang county of Fujian Province. The constitution itself was drafted before the fall of Mainland China to the Communists, and was in part drafted as a means of creating a coalition government between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China. It was adopted by the National Assembly on December 25, 1946, promulgated by the National Government on January 1, 1947, and went into effect on December 25, 1947. The Constitution was seen as the third and final stage of Kuomintang reconstruction of China.

The Constitution establishes a presidential republic with a National Assembly and five branches of government (Yuans): the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan, and Control Yuan. In practice, the Examination Yuan, the Control Yuan, and the National Assembly have become marginal organizations.

Although the constitution foresaw regular democratic elections, these were not held until the 1990s. On April 18, 1948, the National Assembly added to the Constitution the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion." These articles greatly enhanced the power of the president and abolished the two term limit for the president and the vice president. In 1954, the Judicial Yuan ruled that the delegates elected to the National Assembly and Legislative Yuan in 1947 would remain in office until new elections could be held in Mainland China which had come under the control of the Communist Party of China in 1949. This judicial ruling allowed the Kuomintang to rule unchallenged in Taiwan until the 1990s. In 1991, these members were forced to resign by a subsequent Judicial Yuan ruling.

In the 1970s, supplemental elections began to be held for the Legislative Yuan. Although these were for a limited number of seats, they did allow for the transition to a more open political system.

In the late 1980s, the Constitution faced the growing democratization on Taiwan combined with the mortality of the delegates that were elected in 1947. Faced with these pressures, on April 22, 1991, the first National Assembly voted itself out of office, abolished the Temporary Provisions passed in 1948, and adopted major amendments (known as the "First Revision") permitting free elections. On May 27, 1992 several other amendements were passed (known as the "Second Revision"), most notably that allowing the direction election of the President of the Republic of China, Governor of Taiwan Province, and municipal mayors. Ten new amendments to replace the eighteen amendments of the First and Second Revisions were passed on July 28, 1994. The amendements passed on July 18, 1997 streamlined the Taiwan Provincial Government and granted the Legislative Yuan powers of impeachment. The constitution was subsequently revised in 1999 and 2000, with the former revision being declared void the same year by the Council of Grand Justices.

Until the 1990s, the document was considered illegitimate by most supporters of Taiwan independence because of the fact that it was not drafted in Taiwan. However, the document gained more legitimacy among independence supporters throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s and it is now accepted as the basic law of Taiwan by all of the major parties.

One recent controversy involving the ROC Constitution is the right to referendum which is mentioned in the Constitution. Although the right is present, implementing legislation has been blocked by the pan-blue coalition largely out of suspicions that proponents of a referendum law would be used to overturn the ROC Constitution and provide a means to declare Taiwan independence.

In 2003, President Chen Shui-bian proposed holding a referendum in 2006 for implementing an entirely new constitution on May 20, 2008 to coincide with the inauguration of the 12th-term president of the ROC. Proponents of such a move, namely the pan-green coalition, argue that the current Constitution endorses a specific ideology (i.e., the Three Principles of the People), which is only precendented in Communist countries; in addition, they argue that a more "efficient" government is needed to cope with changing realities. Furthermore, the current Consitution explicitly states before the amendements implemented on Taiwan, "To meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification...", in direct opposition to the pan-green position that Taiwan must remain separated from the mainland. The pan-blue coalition has likewise come up with constitutional reform proposals, but for implementation in 2005.

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