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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Taiwan votes for leaner parliament
By Chris Hogg
BBC Taiwan correspondent

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian
China views Mr Chen's reform plans with suspicion
Lawmakers in Taiwan's parliament have voted to halve the number of seats in the country's legislature in an effort to make it more efficient.

The move still has to be confirmed by further votes, but if it passes it should come into effect in three years.

The changes were proposed by President Chen Shui-bian's party and were passed overwhelmingly, thanks in part to clear public support for the reforms.

The proposals are part of a wider bill on constitutional change.

It is a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas. Taiwan's lawmakers have agreed to reduce the number of seats in their parliament from 225 to 113.

A lot of the parliamentarians will be out of a job if, as expected, the proposals pass the remaining legislative hurdles and become law in time for the parliamentary election in three years time.

Smaller parties weakened

The change was pushed through by President Chen's party, the DPP, and the opposition nationalist KMT - the biggest parties in parliament.

These parties might stand to gain if fewer seats are contested, as the smaller parties or independents could find it harder to win enough support to get their candidates elected.

But in the end, even the smaller parties supported the moves to downsize the legislature, unwilling to be painted as anti-reform.

This is just the first of a series of constitutional changes President Chen has indicated he wants to push through.

These changes are controversial. China regards the island as nothing more than a breakaway province which should be returned to the mainland.

Beijing has already indicated it is unhappy with President Chen's plans to alter the island's constitution.

The Chinese leadership has always made clear that anything it perceives as a move towards independence by Taiwan will be countered with force.

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