Joint Governance: Redefine the "Dual-Leadership System"
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 9, 2008
Ma Ying-jeou will not be participating in the Dragon Boat races due to the floods in southern Taiwan. The Presidential Office spokesman's statement was amusing. Wang Yu-chi said: "President Ma, respects the constitutionally designated Head of State... The Premier is the highest ranking member of the Executive Yuan... Disaster relief and flood control is the authority of the Executive Yuan... President Ma and the Executive Yuan have taken all necessary steps, and will keep a close watch on the situation." But then Wang Yu-chi added: "If the disaster worsens, President Ma does not rule out visiting the countryside to survey the disaster."
Flooding from a tropical storm seems to have turned President Ma into a advocate and practitioner of the "semi-presidential, dual-leadership system." Ma Ying-jeou seems to think that disaster relief is part of the the Executive Yuan's flood control functions, and that the President must respect this fact. He seems to think that if the president interferes with Executive Yuan disaster relief, or even expresses concern for disaster victims, he will be perceived as trying to hog the media spotlight.
This may be a manifestation of President Ma's promise to "retreat to the second line after inauguration." It could be a manifestation of what he advocated in his inaugural address -- "a constitutional system in which authority corresponds with responsibility." But is this really the spirit of the so-called "dual-leadership system?" Apparently this "dual-leadership system" can't even survive a heavy rainfall.
Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian utterly destroyed the "Dual-leadership system" during their terms of office. During the Lee Teng-hui era even Liu Tai-ying could humiliate Premier Vincent Siew. During the Chen Shui-bian era, Chen fired six consecutive Premiers. Chen abused every one of them, leaving them dishonored and in disgrace. Lee and Chen encroached upon the Executive Yuan's authority even as they evaded the attendant responsibility. Lee and Chen meddled in the Executive Yuan's authority and demeaned the Premier's dignity. Ma Ying-jeou, conscious of this negative precedent, has "retreated to the second-line," and the premise that "powers and responsibilities must correspond." His intent is to respect the Premier and the Executive Yuan, to avoid stealing their thunder, and to avoid interfering with the Premier's leadership.
But if the "dual-leadership system" imprisons the Premier within the Legislative Yuan, if it prevents the President from offering his condolences to disaster victims for fear of exceeding his authority, this is a misunderstanding of the spirit and letter of the law.
Is our current constitution really akin to France's dual-leadership system," in which "executive power changes track?" According to the Republic of China Constitution, the President's powers and responsibilities are indeterminate. If the President's powers are narrowly defined, then he has the authority to determine only the overall direction of national defense, foreign affairs, and cross-strait policy. He lacks the authority even to nominate the Chairperson for the Mainland Affairs Council. If, on the other hand, the President's powers are broadly defined, then the Premier is nothing more than a Presidential appointee. For over a decade, in actual practice, the Head of the Executive Yuan has effectively become the President's chief executive. In any event, a "Dual-leadership system" must not lead us to the absurd conclusion that "the president may not comfort disaster victims."
The existing "dual-leadership system" lacks clear lines of demarcation. But if on the one hand it allows Chen Shui-bian to undermine six consecutive Premiers, and if on the other hand it makes Ma Ying-jeou hesitant to even inquire about the well-being of disaster victims, this hardly represents the original intent of the constitution. President Ma and Premier Liu must find a way to complement each other and administer jointly. Otherwise they will endlessly reenact the Chinese "Parable of the Father and Son Riding a Donkey." No matter who rides the donkey on the way to the market, someone is bound to criticize.
With direct presidential elections, the public has certain expectations of the president. This, coupled with unclear demarcations within the "dual-leadership system," make it difficult to distinguish between a front line and a second line. Suppose that during his election campaign, the President's views include a whole range of views on politics, education, and economics? Suppose he strongly supports "big tenant farmers, small landowners," a "negative income tax system," or "Twelve i-Taiwan Projects?" Now suppose that upon assuming office he suddenly announces that he is "retreating to the second-line?" and that "disaster relief is part of the Executive Yuan's flood control responsibilities?" What kind of self-contradictory form of "dual-leadership system" is that? If President Ma believes that upon taking office he has only the "three powers delegated to the President," then why not the allow Frank Hsieh to be president, and allow the "three powers" to limit the Executive Yuan? If President Ma feels the President should not interfere with the Executive Yuan, then why does he want the Executive Yuan to encroach on the President's "three powers," as expressed in his political platform? Furthermore, if disaster relief and flood prevention is "merely" part of the Executive Yuan's authority, then why did President Ma phone the Premier and the Chairman of the the Council of Agriculture expressing "concern" over the disaster? Such a "dual-leadership system" is self-contradictory, indefensible, and unsustainable.
Given the gap between the public's expectations and the system's defects, Ma Ying-jeou and Liu Chao-hsuan must re-define the "dual-leadership system." Predicated on mutual trust and the division of labor, they must complement each other and govern jointly. For example, in the event of a flood, if the Premier is preoccupied with other matters, the President should act as a buffer and console the public. It cannot be the the way it is now, where the Premier has no time to visit the countryside and the President declares that he does not dare interfere with the Executive Yuan. The solution is joint governance, with the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan both aware of the bigger picture and adopting a policy of "comprehensive governance, full responsibility." Therefore the President need not micromanage Executive Yuan policy via his political platform, and conversely Executive Yuan policy need not be constrained by the President's political platform.
The "dual-leadership system" is broken. It is the source of current constitutional chaos. Ma Ying-jeou and Liu Chao-hsuan must respect the rule of law. But they must also repair the holes in the legal system. They must dedicate themselves to mending the constitution. Only then can they properly promote the public welfare.
The "dual-leadership system" must not be misinterpreted. The "dual-leadership system" must not be a means of evading responsibility. The spirit and the letter of the law must not be misunderstood.
2008.06.09 03:07 am