Nominations Should Stress Professionalism, Not Political Rewards
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 21, 2011
Election season is upon us. The ruling and opposition parties are each holding their legislative primaries. Several veteran legislators have lost their bid for re-election. This has been the case for both major parties. Changes to the electoral system may have affected the election results. Public sentiments may also have changed. A new generation of voters is replacing the old. The two major parties are about to announce their nominees for the upcoming legislative election. It is time to consider what is missing in the ROC Legislative Yuan. It is time to consider how the mechanism by which political parties nominate legislators without portfolio can be changed and improved.
The Legislative Yuan is the primary battlefield for to partisan political struggles. It is a political body whose primary concern is political maneuveuring. But the main function of the Legislative Yuan, as its name implies, should be to legislate. The authoring of laws is not merely a political activity. It is also a professional activity. In the past, fisticuffs often broke out in the legislature. It was not a place where one could engage in rational political discourse. The impression it left on the public was negative. In recent years, there have been fewer fisticufss. But has political discourse become more professional as a consequence? Not really.
The Legislative Yuan deals with two kinds of legislation. The first is legislation which closely affects a party's political fortunes. Such legislation is highly political in nature. Absent negotiations, they are likely to meet resistance. If they are passed without negotiations, they are likely to lead to major mobilization and conflict. It is a case of politics above all else. The second type is legislation not political in nature, but whose authorship requires a high degree of professionalism. Such legislation requires professionalism far more than political correctness. Such legislation vastly outnumbers highly political legislation. If such legislation receives inadequate attention from legislators, the laws will be poorly written.
Some people think that if legislation requires professional authorship, it can be written by the executive branch. They say legislators have too many other matters to attend to. They may actually detract from the process. This argument does not hold water. But it does highlight the problem. Some people think too much participation by legislators undermines the quality of legislation. They question the professionalism of legislators. They feel that the executive branch ought to determine the content of bills to be passed by the legislature. This affirms the professionalism of the executive branch. But it ignores the importance of legislative checks and balances on the executive branch. The Legislative Yuan is not supposed to be a rubber stamp. If lawmakers lack legislative expertise, this is a problem that must be addressed, and not bypassed.
A while back, a referee caused an uproar by sexually molesting several young children. Many blamed the justice system. In fact, when the criminal codes were amended, the sexual molestation of young children was divided into two categories: forcible, and non-forcible. This forced the courts to determine whether young children were subject to force during sexual molestation. This reflected a defect in the law. This was a law that was non-political in nature. A lack of professionalism within the Legislative Yuan led to a defective law and serious consequences.
After taking office, President Ma promoted two domestic laws patterned after the UN Human Rights Convention. The plan to adopt two provisions of the convention and make them domestic law was well-intentioned. But the law includes at least three defects. These defects reveal the lack of professionalism within the legislative process. First, the two provisions of the UN Convention on Human Rights, involve certain objective preconditions. The authors of the laws lept before they looked. They failed to discriminate. Their rush to transform the two conventions into domestic law was clearly premature. Secondly, they passed the laws, but they failed to include the two conventions as an attachment. They passed the wrong portion of the Chinese language edition of the two conventions. Transposing them and reusing them led to confusion. Such a mistake was unprecedented. Thirdly, two years after their passage, they will be in contravention of domestic law, and will have to be totally amended. The laws will expire in December of this year. The Legislative elections are just around the corner. Hundreds of laws must be amended within by then. [ 縱不跳票? ] Rash package votes are clearly at odds with proper procedure. These laws were legal landmarks. If even they were handled so shoddily, one can imagine how poorly written other laws must be.
The laws passed by the Legislative Yuan cannot withstand close scrutiny. This was the direct result of a lack of legal professionals. This is not a matter legal aides from the Legislative Yuan Legal Bureau can handle. The Legislative Yuan has over one hundred legislators. Only a handful know the law. In Western countries, legislators hark from the legal profession. They account for a majority of the members of their parliaments. In earlier days, DPP legislators were mostly lawyers. Today they have no knowledge of the law, but fill the legislature. The number of KMT legislators who have no knowledge of the law is even more appalling. The Legislative Yuan passes criminal and civil laws that affect people's lives. This requires a high degree of professionalism. But legislators lack talent they can rely on. This is deeply worrisome. The legislator without portfolio seats within the Legislative Yuan are supposed to be for professionals of special ability. But the ruling and opposition parties have chosen to use these seats as rewards for political cronies. The Legislative Yuan is now filled with partisan pit bulls, but few professional legislators. If the quality of the legislation falls short, who is to blame?
The time to nominate legislators has come. Can the two parties nominate candidates with an eye on improving the quality of legislation?