Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Negative Constitutional Precedent:

A Negative Constitutional Precedent: Chen Shui-bian destroys the System before his Departure
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 29, 2008

During his final cabinet reshuffle, President Chen did not assume a humble posture in response to changed public opinion. On the contrary. By turning down the cabinet resignation, he retained Premier Chang Chun-hsiung. By doing so he checked the new legislature. Chen Shui-bian claims he is establishing a new "constitutional precedent." In fact, he is merely flaunting his characteristic egocentricity and indifference to the nation's larger interests.

After eight years in office he has no achievements to speak of. Yet he wants to give constitutional rule a final swift kick before he leaves. Chen Shui-bian's thinking is simply incomprehensible. Chen Shui-bian talks a good game. He said he wanted to avoid another cabinet resignation three months from now. But the Constitution mandates that "the Executive Yuan must be responsible to the Legislative Yuan." The new cabinet must resign before the establishment of the new legislature. This protocol is part of the relationship between the cabinet and the legislature. Chen Shui-bian's refusal to accept the resignation of his cabinet is tantamount to defying the constitution, to an unconstitutional power grab. A president with hardly any time left in his term, casually invents a pretext for indiscriminate constitutional violations. Is this how Chen Shui-bian demonstrates his "love for Taiwan?"

In fact Chen Shui-bian's last cabinet is merely a caretaker government. Its responsibility is merely to maintain the basic functions of government and not make any untoward changes. Those officials deemed most unfit should be replaced. If possible the cabinet should be strengthened with new appointments. Unfortunately this is the farthest thing from Chen Shui-bian's mind. Chen is not concerned about how to respond to the people's expectations, or even how to restore the image of the DPP. Chen is concerned only with how many more photo ops he can enjoy and how many cards he can play before he is forced to step down. This is why he rejected the cabinet resignation.

In other words, Chen's rejection of the cabinet resignation is a declaration that "Chang Chun-hsiung is going to stay right where he is." Chen Shui-bian could have chosen to abide by the constitution. He could have first accepted the cabinet resignation, then reappointed Chang Chun-hsiung. That would have achieve the same purpose. But Chen Shui-bian was unwilling to follow due process. He devised his "turning down the cabinet resignation" ploy. He concocted his "stabilizing the political arrangement" pretext. All to conceal the ugly reality of his own constitutional violations.

A president with little time left in his term, is still racking his brains trying to destroy the system and create conflict. A Bian's unauthorized "rejection of the cabinet resignation" was a flagrant usurpation of the authority of the legislature. It was a demonstration of open contempt for the newly elected legislature, an open provocation. Under such circumstances, how can the ruling and opposition parties reconcile and coexist? What is most absurd is that over the past eight years a president who has been relentlessly creating chaos is now mouthing platitudes about "stabilizing the political arrangement."

In fact, we don't need need political commentators to do the analysis. People can see for themselves that Chen Shui-bian made up his mind long ago. Chang Chun-hsiung would stay put, because he is the premier over whom A Bian has the most control. But A Bian has chosen a tortuous road. He has turned this chess game into a charade. His purpose is twofold: First, to take advantage of the opposition parties and the new legislature. Second, to gain extra leverage in dealing with Frank Hsieh. Most likely the latter is purpose is has priority.

Premier Chang suddenly announced he was "resigning in advance." Then he enacted his "asked to stay on in advance" charade. On the surface we may have been entertained by a string of twists and turns. But for the Chen regime, it was business as usual. Nothing unexpected happened. Even Tu Cheng-sheng and Hsieh Chi-wei, the two officials most detested by the public, were brazenly asked to stay on following the election debacle. How does this meet with the public's expectations? The presidential office and the DPP legislative caucus joined hands and undermined Frank Hsieh's "CEO premier" trial balloon, blunting Hsieh's momentum. In effect Frank Hsieh, as the DPP's presidential candidate, lost the first battle in his struggle to blaze his own trail and deviate from the Chen Shui-bian path.

In the wake of this tempest over the cabinet, people are beginning to see Chen Shui-bian's selfish nature. Even in the final stages of his rule, Chen thinks only of himself: How to maintain his own power, how to save face, how to provide cover for his own henchmen. From the way he has hobbled Frank Hsieh, it is easy to see that even the future of the DPP means nothing to him. If he doesn't care even about the future of the Democratic Progressive Party, how can the people expect Chen's seventh cabinet reshuffle to consider the "aspirations of the people?"

It's ironic. Frank Hsieh was anxious to draw a clear line of distinction between himself and Chen Shui-bian. Instead the struggle over the cabinet Club left him caught in Chen's web, forced to dance to Chen's tune. Chang Chun-hsiung protected his rice bowl. But as a premier without a mind of his own, all he can do now is watch as his reputation and his "Benefit of the Week" policy proposals go down with Chen Shui-bian. The DPP has sunk pretty low. Although Chang Chun-hsiung may have been able to wrangle himself a third term, what has he bequeathed the party?

As Chen Shui-bian boasted, he has won another internecine struggle. He has pulled another fast one. He has successfully undermined the nation's system of constitutional rule. He may be able to gloat for a few days, but he will make the Democratic Progressive Party pay a heavy price for his behavior.

2008.01.29 03:02 am











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