Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Central Election Committee Reform must not be Undermined

Central Election Committee Reform must not be Undermined
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 10, 2007

Comment: The following China Times editorial makes a desperate appeal to the better angels of our nature. It pleads with the ruling DPP to honor the Rule of Law and to "play nice."

A few years ago I might have echoed their heartfelt appeal.

But not today.

The Chinese have an expression: 緣木求魚 yuan mu qiu yu. It means: "climbing a tree in search of fish." As you can probably guess, the expression refers to the fruitless act of looking for something where it will never be found.

Yuan Mu Qiu Yu, i.e., "Climbing a Tree in Search of Fish"

Anyone who expects democracy to protect the life, liberty, and property of the sovereign individual, or in the language of democracy's champions "uphold freedom and human rights," is "climbing a tree in search of fish."

That's because protecting the life, liberty, and property of the sovereign individual is not the raison d'etre for democracy.

Democracy exists so that ambitious politicians can exercise limitless power and remake the world in their own image.

Democracy is the ideal arrangement for achieving this end, because the vast majority of people alive today are under the spell of the democratic myth.

They don't realize that the superficial trappings of democracy, such as "the right to vote," are merely toy steering wheels attached to infant car seats, giving them the illusion that they are actually driving the car.

They don't realize that the only real "right" they enjoy is the right to pay taxes until the day they die, and to have their "democratically-elected representatives" spend their hard-earned money any way they wish.

Once one understands the purpose of democracy and other monopolistic states, one will never again make the mistake of "climbing a tree in search of fish." One will never again labor under the delusion that one's "democratically-elected leaders" have any interest whatsoever in deferring to the Rule of Law and playing by the rules of the game.

Central Election Committee Reform must not be Undermined

China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 10, 2007

A stalemate between the ruling and opposition parties in the Legislative Yuan over the Draft Law for the Central Election Committee (CEC) has, believe it or not, made it impossible to pass the annual budget. Despite the stalemate, the Executive Yuan, according to reports, will officially begin nominating new committee members according to current CEC rules and procedures. But according to the Blue Camp's understanding, the ruling and opposition parties are in the middle of consultations over the Draft Law for the CEC, therefore the Executive Yuan should not bulldoze its way through political opposition. Otherwise the legislature will not be able to give its approval to this item. It would seem that the composition of the CEC is destined to become a major bone of contention between the ruling and opposition parties, and even the administration.

According to central government laws and regulations, the organization and empowerment of government entities that directly impact the people's political rights, such as the CEC, must be determined by means of legislation rather than regulations. In other words, existing CEC procedures have the status of administrative orders. By their very nature they can only be "black box operations." On this point at least, the ruling and opposition parties are in basic agreement, and should pass such provisions as soon as possible.

The question is how the CEC is to be organized and how its members are to be chosen. The Green Camp, with its lock on administrative resources, wants to retain the current system. It has reluctantly agreed that no more than 2/5 of all committee members can belong to any one political party. It insists however, that the actual candidates be nominated by the premier and appointed by the president. But if candidates are nominated in such a fashion, the ruling regime will exercise complete control over the CEC. During the 2004 Presidential Election, the CEC provided the incumbent Chen regime with "full cooperation." It went so far as to become the willing tool of Green Camp electioneering activity, by rubber stamping the unconstitutional linkage of the controversial 2004 Arms Purchase Referendum with the Presidential Election. From a Blue Camp perspective, the painful experience of the unconstitutional linkage of the referendum with the election is precisely why it insists that the composition of the CEC must be determined by means of proportional representation according to party affiliation. At the very least, it wants to ensure that no more than 2/3 of the committee members are controlled by the ruling regime.

Blue Camp and Green Camp strategic calculations have led to gridlock over the Draft Law for the CEC. Legislation, the central government budget, and arms purchases have all become victims. Externally, this deadlock has undermined trust between the ROC and the US. Internally, it has hindered the government's plans for the coming year.

The short term beneficiary of the continuing deadlock over the Constitutive Law for the CEC is of course the Green Camp. For example the ruling regime can claim that CEC rules and regulations have not yet been systematized, then use this as a pretext to pack the incoming CEC with members of its own choosing. After which it won't matter whether we're looking at the year end legislative election, or next year's presidential election, or even a combined legislative and presidential election. The 2004 precedent will prevail. The CEC will continue to concoct all kinds of public referenda advantageous to the Green Camp, causing a mechanism originally intended to facilitate direct democracy to degenerate into an electioneering tool by which a designated political party can drum up support. In the long run however, if the CEC cannot be integrated into a system predicated on the Rule of Law, the failure will constitute a major setback for democratic government, and a further indicator of legislative impotence. Under such circumstances, if the ruling authorities concern themselves only with retaining control over the CEC, or go so far as to transform the CEC into a tool in the service of a designated political party, then not only will they defile the CEC by destroying its role as an impartial intermediary, they will call public trust in the CEC into further question.

Furthermore, if the ruling regime, motivated exclusively by the desire to retain control of the CEC, deliberately hinders the legitimization of the CEC, or does not hesitate to create gridlock in the legislature, sacrificing arms purchases and the annual budget, then the price is too high, and the behavior not something a ruling government should be engaged in. The ruling regime clearly has no intention of legitimizing the CEC via consultation. Instead, acting willfully and on its own, it intends to pack the CEC with its own nominees. The result will be a flagrantly biased situation, leading inevitably to an intense Blue Camp backlash, and even a "scorched earth" policy of resistance.

Although the official business of the Legislative Yuan would not come to a complete standstill, social divisions and turmoil would surely intensify. The ruling and opposition parties would both suffer injuries, but the primary victims would be the public welfare, the functioning of government machinery, and the potential for national development.

Based on the above analysis, and in view of legislation related to the Constitutive Law for the CEC, we feel obligated to make the following appeals:

First, we hope that the legislature will recognize its proper role. Passage of legislation is the lawmaker's primary duty. Ruling and opposition party lawmakers may have different views concerning the content of legislation, but ensuring its passage is their common duty. A legislature which spins its wheels is subject to questioning and to challenge.

Next, the ruling regime must cooperate fully in the legitimization of the CEC. If it is unable to complete this process before the end of the current session, it should complete this process during the transition period. If it attempts to exploit the weaknesses in the system to its own advantage, and precipitates the destruction of the system, it will become the executioner of public trust in the CEC.

Finally, in regards the ruling and opposition parties, we realize this dispute has a direct impact on the question of who will be the winners and who will be the losers in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections. But election victories and losses are temporary. To destroy the Rule of Law for the sake of selfish partisan advantage is to incur a debt that can only be settled in history books.

Original Chinese below:


立 法院朝野陣營上會期為了中選會組織法草案的爭議相持不下,破天荒使得年度總預算案迄今未完成立法程序。在這種相持不下的情況下,據報導行政院將於下周一 (四月十六日)依現行的中選會組織規程正式啟動中選會委員的換屆提名作業。而藍營則認為目前朝野正在為中選會組織法草案進行協商,行政院不應強度關山,否 則立院將對此項任命的備查案不予認可。看來,有關新一屆中選會委員的組成、任命,將成為朝野乃至行政、立法之間角力對抗的最新題材。


然 而,問題就出於中選會的組成與委員的產生方式。掌握行政資源的綠營希望維持現制,只消極規定同一黨籍的委員不得超過總額的五分之二,但具體人選還是由行政 院長提名報請總統任命。依照這樣的提名任命模式,執政團隊可以有效掌握中選會的議事走向。以過去的經驗而言,二○○四年具爭議性的軍售公投綁總統大選事 件,當時的中選會就是扮演充分配合,甚至甘為綠營選舉造勢工具的角色。就藍營而言,正因為曾有公投綁大選的慘痛經驗,因此針對中選會的組成,堅持應採取政 黨比例的方式產生,至不濟要確保執政團隊所掌控影響的中選會委員不能超過三分之二多數決的門檻。


有 關中選會組織法立法僵局的持續,短期看來受益者當然是綠營。譬如執政團隊大可以尚未法制化為由,堂而皇之地繼續沿用中選會組織規程,逕行提名產生新一屆中 選會委員,然後不論是在年底的立委改選,或明年三月的總統大選,甚或是將立委與總統選舉二合一,仍依二○○四年的前例,繼續炮製對綠營選舉情勢有利的各種 公投,從而使得原本為體現直接民權的公投機制,徹底淪為特定政黨選舉造勢的工具。

然而從長遠看,中選會如果一直未能完成法制化,既是民主 法治的重大缺憾,也將進一步凸顯國會的失能。而在這種有缺憾的情況下,行政當局對於中選會委員的換屆作業,如果還是只著眼於操控掌握,甚至不惜使之淪為為 個別政黨服務的工具,則不只汙衊了中選會獨立超然公正的中介角色,也將使中選會的公信力受到進一步的質疑。


同 時,完全可預見的,如果行政當局既無意透過協商實現中選會的法制化,又在委員換屆的提名作業過程一意孤行,出現嚴重傾斜現象,則勢必引發藍營的強烈反彈, 甚至可能激化為焦土對抗。想像在那種情況下,立法院議事固然可能完全停擺,社會上的分裂動盪也一定會加劇,到時候朝野兩敗俱傷,但賠上的卻將是全民的福 祉、政府機器的運作以及國家發展的契機。





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