Administrative Matters May Take a Back Seat, but National Affairs Must Take a Front Seat
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 22, 2008
According to a survey conducted by the China Times Public Opinion Survey Center, since Ma Ying-jeou became president two months ago, his approval rating has dropped to 36 percent, possibly the lowest in his political career. The survey also found that KMT legislators, Premier Liu Chao-hsuan, and the Executive Yuan's approval ratings are even lower. Nevertheless, over 55% of the people still have confidence in the Ma administration's future governance. Over half the people feel satisfied with the Ma administration's handling of cross-Strait relations. Nearly half the people do not think that President Ma should continue his "long stay" in the countryside, seven percent more than those who think he should. Most intriguing of all, only 30% were in favor of President Ma retreating to the second-line on issues other than national defence and foreign affairs. Nearly 40% were not in favor of him turning those responsibilities over to the Executive Yuan. This tells us that the public on Taiwan does not fully understand the nature of democracy.
After President Ma took office, he said that according to the Constitution, national defence and foreign affairs are the president's responsibility. On other issues, the President ought to retreat to the second-line, and the Premier ought to be in charge. This is the President's understanding of his duties under the Constitution. Currently more people disapprove of his decision than approve. Normally the public tends to agree with the president's understanding of the Constitution. This is not a matter of asking to public to amend the Constitution. The public considers the president correct in his understanding of the Constitution. At the same time it disapproves of his decision to retreat to the second line out of respect for the Constitution. What exactly does that mean?
Not long ago the China Times said that Ma's so-called retreat to the second-line is a concept that requires clarification. When the President retreats to the second-line, he is defending the Constitution and acknowledging his proper role. It does not mean the President should be indifferent to the Executive Yuan's duties. A President who retreats to the second-line must still empathize with the people's suffering. When the nation finds itself in difficulty, he must stand up and bolster public morale. During times of peace he must remain vigilant. He must stabilize the nation. As Head of State, the President must set the major objectives and determine the larger direction for the nation's development. He must become a stabilizing force for the political situation. In reality, a President who has retreated to the second line must at times stand on the front line, uniting the people.
President Chen and President Ma must understand of constitutional separation of powers between the President and the Executive Yuan. They may not ignore the provisions of the Constitution merely because they are democratically elected. They may not usurp powers not delegated to them, merely because they received a majority of the votes. This is something that President Ma, who studied law, wishes to uphold. It is also something that voters may be neglecting. To put it bluntly, voters who support the President must not encourage the President to violate the rule of law, violate the Constitution, exceed his rightfully delegated powers, and make decisions he is not authorized to make. The Constitution tells people how to elect a President. It also tells the President what he may and may not do. The President must act in accordance with the Constitution. Democracy must not be a system in which a president, once elected, is able to set the Constitution to one side.
In a democracy the people choose their leaders. When these leaders' peform their duties, two problems may arise. One, they may accomplish something of value. The other, they may exceed their authority. To accomplish something of value, requires leadership, determination, and administrative ability. To avoid exceeding one's authority, requires self-control, a refusal to abuse power, and a refusal to be corrupted by money. The best elected leaders possess both virtues. The worst elected leaders lack both virtues. Such leaders are both incompetent and corruptible. In the event we cannot have both, is it better to have a leader who is competent, or a leader who incorruptible? A feudal society that does not insist on democracy may prefer a leader who is competent. But Taiwan is a democracy unwilling to turn back the clock. The President must be both competent and incorruptible. Failing that, an incompetent president is preferable to a corrupt president. The worst of all worlds is a President who is both incompetent and corrupt. Taiwan has had more than a little experience with just such a President.
Besides an elected President, The Constitution also provides for a Premier. The Premier is the head of the Executive Yuan. He is responsible for leading the cabinet in accordance with the law. People who elect their own leaders will sooner or later elect a popular but mediocre leader. If a Zhu Geliang is elected, that is good. But a Zhu Geliang might not run for office. If a Liu Bei is elected, then in accordance with the Constitution, he can still appoint a Zhu Geliang as a professional administrator. Liu Bei knew enough to respect Zhu Geliang. That fact is extremely important. In today's democracy, a popular President who respects diversity, who can win the trust of the people, who abides by the Constitution, who knows how to use talent, who respects expertise, is far more worthy of recognition than someone is is arbitrary and who has contempt for the rule of law. Taiwan's democracy requires further consolidation. What kind of president it needs requires further thought.
No matter what kind of President the people of Taiwan want, we already have a President who has three years and 10 months left in his term. He has formed a professional team of administrators. The public on Taiwan wants a President who can solve people's problems. The public hopes the President will exercise self-restraint. The President must not "rule by doing nothing." But he must not violate the Constitution in order to accomplish something of value. A President who exceeds his Constitutional authority, no matter how promising he might be as an administrator, would not be a blessing for Taiwan. When President Ma sees his poll results, he will feel pressured to do something. But he must also know when not to do anything.
本報民意中心調查顯示，馬英九總統就任兩個月，施政滿意度跌到卅六％，可能是他從政以來的歷史新低。此一調查也發現，國民黨立委、劉兆玄院長以及行政團隊 的表現，民意評價更低，但是民眾對於馬政府未來施政，仍有超過五成五的人具有信心，也有半數以上的民眾對於馬政府經營兩岸關係的做法感到滿意，還有接近半 數的民眾不以為馬總統現在應該繼續下鄉進行long stay，超過贊成者七個百分點。最耐人尋味的是，只有三成的人贊成馬總統在國防外交以外的問題上站在二線；對交由行政院負責不表贊成的民眾，則接近四 成。此問題充分反映了台灣在民主政治進程上，可能還有需要反思的觀念。
馬總統就任後表示，依據憲法國防外交是總統職權；其他問題，總統 站在二線，而由行政院院長負責；這是總統對於憲法上總統職權功能的理解。現在表示不贊成的人多過贊成的人，依正常判斷，當然不會是因一般民眾並不同意總統 的憲法認知。這個題目，不是在問民眾該不該修改憲法，如果民眾既不以為總統的憲法認識錯誤，又不贊成總統尊重憲法守在二線，其中究竟代表了什麼涵意？
不久之前，我們也曾表達看法，所謂退居二線，是個應該釐清的概念。總統退居二線是要謹守憲法上的權力分寸，但也不是說總統就對應由行政院團隊負責之事，漠 不關心；退居二線的總統還是應該疾民之苦，在國家處境陷入困局的時候站出來振作民心士氣，在順遂平穩的時候知道要居安思危。不論是什麼時候，總統都該站在 穩定大局的高度，以國家元首的身分指出整體發展的總目標與大方向，成為政治局面穩定的力量。在實質政務上退居二線的總統，仍該是在各種公開場合站上一線凝 聚民氣的國家元首。
我們也必須指陳，馬總統正確地理解到憲法上總統與行政院的權限有其分工之處，不能只因為他是全民選出的總統，就將憲 法的規定拋諸腦後，靠著選票的加持，侵奪並不屬於他的權力。這是習法出身的馬總統的法治堅持，卻反而可能是總統選民忽略的地方。說得直白一些，總統的選民 經過思考之後，不該會去支持總統不守法治，不守憲法，去接不該由他掌握的權力，去做不該由他做的決定。憲法，不但告訴人們總統怎麼選，也告訴總統能做什 麼，不能做什麼。總統，應該按照憲法行事；民主政治不該是選出總統，就把憲法擺在一邊。
民主政治由人民選擇領袖，有兩項可能相互衝突的 指標，一是他是否有為，一是他是否有守。有為，是有領導魄力與執行能力；有守，則是自我把持，不濫用權力，不貪汙歛財。上選的國家元首，當然是既有為，又 有守。下下之選，則是不但無能，而且不守分際。有為有守若是不能得兼，是寧取有為呢？還是寧取有守？不堅持民主的封建社會，可能寧取有為；可是台灣已是不 許回頭的民主政治，總統要就是有為有守，不然也該是無能而有守。最怕是碰到無能而又無守的總統，這點台灣不是沒有經驗。
在民選總統之 外，憲法上確還有位負責領導內閣依法行政的行政院長。從長遠看，人民選舉領袖，總有選出人氣充足，但才具平庸者的時候。諸葛亮當選，固然很好；但諸葛亮未 必參選。當選的若是劉備，依照憲法，也還有任命諸葛亮作為專業經理人的機會。劉備懂得尊重諸葛亮，其實極為重要。現在民主政治，面向多元，贏得人民信賴的 人氣總統，謹守憲法分寸，識人善任，尊重專才，要遠比乾綱獨斷，視法治如無物者，值得肯定許多。台灣的民主仍須鞏固，究竟需要那一種總統，應該深思。
不管台灣人想要那一種總統，我們已經有了一位任期還有三年十個月的總統，也已組成了一支專業行政團隊。台灣人無非想要總統解民倒懸，我們也希望總統有為有 守，總統既不該無為而治，更不可為了展現有為，就不守憲法分際。不守憲法分際的總統，再怎麼有為，也非台灣之福，馬總統看到民調結果，必須有所做為，也還 是要有所不為。