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Five-power Constitution (Twilight of a New Era)

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The Five-Power Constitution is a system of state organization proposed by Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen in 1906, along the Three Principles of the People. It was planned as a means to implement democracy and republican government in China. It was meant to be the third and last stage (constitution) of the Three Stages of Revolution. The Second Constitution of the Republic of China of 1935 is the formal expression of this system.

It established a centralized republic with five branches of government or State,unlike the three traditional branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) of Western Constitutions.

The five branches or Yuan (院) are: the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Examination Yuan, and Control or Superivision Yuan. The first three are homologous to Western division. All five Yuans or councils are collectively responsible of the state sovereign in some cases to a National Assembly. It is not so clear the interaction of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, but it assumed by political practices and customs that they are part of the same central administration as in Western countries.

The Control or Supervision Yuan is akin to an audit branch present in some constitutions and regulations of Western countries. The Control Yuan, as quasi-legal branch, is in charge of monitoring public officials and recommend corrective measures or criminal prosecutions if they believe it is appropriate. The Control Yuan also has the power to impeach all public officials, including the President and Vice President.

The tasks of the Examination Yuan is to administer is to administer civil service examinations and decide employment matters and placement including discharge and salaries.

The role of the President, as Head of State and chief executive also adds ambiguity as its relation with the five yuans. Some authors have theorized that the President is above the five branches and acts as arbiter between the Yuans, keep or safeguard the continuity of the State. Also acts as guarantor of national independence and territorial integrity.

Characteristics of the implementation of five-power constitutions

This kind of constitution is not only implemented in China (1935), but also in Tibet (1938), Thailand (1943), Taiwan (1945), and Korea (1947). Some characteristics have changed. For example in Korea the government is more presidential in its organization then in China and Taiwan that tends to be more semi-presidential in their governance. Also the constitutional arrangement that best defines Tibet is similar to the one of a Scandinavian countries. In this case duties of Head of State (Dalai Lama) are solely of a representative and ceremonial nature. He no longer formally appoints the Head of Government; that prerogative is now exercised by the National Assembly. Thought the monarchies of Southeast Asia keep a more active role as guardians of the nation and society, having a more active role in govermental crisis.

In Tibet a sixth branch has been added, religious administration. In this case is due to the importance of Buddhism and the role of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. This sixth branch of the Central Tibetan Administration is responsible for the religious affairs and its supervision. Although lay and religious differences and privileges have been abolished.

The monarchies of Southeast Asia were very keen and enthusiastic in redacting their own constitutions following this Five Powers Plus One scheme due historical state patronage and influence of Buddhism.


Comparison of states with five-power
Republican Schemes
Five Powers China (1935) Taiwan (1945) Korea (1947)
Executive President + Executive Yuan President + Executive Yuan President (+ State Council)
Legislative Legislative Yuan + National Assembly Legislative Yuan National Assembly
Judicial Judicial Yuan Judicial Yuan National Justice Council
Control, censorship, supervision, audit and impeach Control Yuan Control Yuan Board of Audit and Inspection
Examination and civil service Examination Yuan Examination Yuan Civil Service Board
Constitutional Monarchy Schemes
Five Powers Plus One Tibet (1938) Thailand (1943)
Executive Dalai Lama + Kashag (5-7 Kalons, that elect Kalon Tripa) King + Council of Ministers
Legislative National Assembly National Assembly (Senate + Chamber of Representatives)
Judicial Judicial Council Supreme Judicial Council
Control, censorship, supervision, audit and impeach Supervision Council Inspection and Audit Council
Examination and civil service Civil Service Council Public Service Council
Religious Affairs Religious Affairs Council Religious Affairs Council and Supreme Sangha Council

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