NSC Appointments and the Dual Leadership Dilemma
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 24, 2010
Yesterday Su Chi, the outgoing Secretary-General of the National Security Council, turned over his job to successor Hu Wei-chen. Everyones' attention is now focused on the differences between the two appointees. But everyone has ignored the institutional problems behind the personnel change. Bluntly speaking, President Ma Ying-jeou's "dual executive system" is in trouble and must be rescued.
Su Chi said his phase of the mission is complete, and that he is resigning for reasons of health and family. This of course was a ruse. The real reasons for his resignation are the controversies over foreign relief during the 8/8 Floods and US beef imports. These were major issues among the public and within the administration. Su Chi refused to clarify matters or to brook criticism. He valued his own image, and resigned in a huff. One might say that Su Chi couldn't stand the heat, so he got out of the kitchen. But at a deeper level, the main reason was the failure of the dual executive system.
The dual executive system is a legacy of the French Fifth Republic. In fact the dual executive system, according to both the spirit and the letter of the law, has a single central government leader. When the presidency and the legislature are controlled by the same party, the president is the chief executive. When the presidency and the legislature are not controlled by the same party, the president appoints a premier supported by a legislative majority. This premier is the chief executive. Rather than referring to it as a dual executive system, it would be more accurate to refer to it as an executive power rechanneling system, or chief executive rechanneling system. In other words, under the Fifth Republic, the leader's unique role is integrated into the system, because it rechannels authority as part of its day to day operations.
Our constitution is nominally modeled on the Fifth Republic's. But it is a semi-finished, pale imitation. According to current legal provisions, the president is responsible for cross-Strait relations, foreign diplomacy, and national defense. But the MAC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense are under the Executive Yuan. According to the constitution, the premier is the head of state. As a consequence, two problems have arisen. First, a dual executive system has arisen despite the rule of law. If the president presides over foreign affairs, why was foreign relief for the 8/8 Floods left up to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Conversely, if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must consult the National Security Council over foreign relief, how can the Presidential Office evade responsibility for the decision, and blame the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Secondly, problems have arisen over who formulates national policy. Take US beef imports. The National Security Council considers this a matter for presidential diplomacy. But the Department of Health must deal with its domestic political repercussions. When the National Security Council's decisions departed from the Department of Health's, a major political storm erupted. Nor was that all. During the US beef imports controversy, the Presidential Office, the cabinet, and the Executive Yuan House each found themselves on a different page. Eventually the KMT Chairman and the KMT legislative caucus amended the law, abrogating US beef import decisions made by the Presidential Office and the cabinet. What was this, if not a political circus?
Under the Lee Teng-hui regime, the dual-leadership system wreaked havoc. The public still recalls how Lee Teng-hui, speaking through Liu Tai-ying, humiliated Premier Vincent Siew. During the Chen Shui-bian era, Chen ignored the executive authority rechanneling system. His minority government stonewalled for eight years. Now Ma Ying-jeou is in office. He was elected president with a landslide 7.65 million votes. His party commands an absolute majority in the legislature. Yet he remains incapable of assuming "full authority and full responsibility." The Presidential Office, the cabinet, the Executive Yuan, and the party remain poorly coordinated. Deadlocks between the two executives are common. Su Chi's resignation underscores the seriousness of the problem.
France's dual executive system has already undergone transformation, to a rechanneling system. It should in fact be characterized as a single executive system. The legal provisions that assigned foreign diplomacy and national defense to the president have undermined the formulation of national policy, albeit not as seriously as the legal provisions that assigned cross-Strait issues, foreign diplomacy, and national defense to the president. As mentioned earlier, our dual executive system is a semi-finished, pale imitation of the French Fifth Republic's. It is a camel instead of a horse. Especially unfortunate is President Ma's leadership style. On the one hand, he adheres too rigidly to certain rules, in defiance of all logic. For example, he once declared that disaster preparedness measures and expressing sympathy for disaster victims, were the responsibility of the premier. On the other hand, President Ma lacks the ability to make things happen outside the institutional framework. The government and its policy-making system are fragmented. He lacks the ability to integrate the Presidential Office, the cabinet, the Executive Yuan, and the party, and assume "full authority and full responsibility." The inevitable result has been a dual executive system more akin to a camel than a horse.
The dual executive system is a "semi-finished product." It is deformed. Hence the need for a leadership better able to coordinate and repair the defects in the system. Given inadequate integration between the party and the government, Ma Ying-jeou must become a leader who assumes "full authority and full responsibility." He must ensure that his administration operates smoothly across the board.
2010.02.24 03:29 am