Beware of Further Distorting the Dual Leadership System
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 1, 2012
Summary: The president's State of the Nation Report should remain a policy statement, a vision for the future, and a national ritutal, all in one. It should not become a battlefield on which rival political parties exchange fire. This is what we advocated in our April 19 editorial This is what we advocate today.
Full Text below:
Successful constitutional evolution hinges on two factors. One. Have the legal requirements of the constitutional framework been met? Two. Can the amendments to the constitution be implemented in a real world setting? The president is taking these two factors into consideration. The President may visit the Legislative Yuan and deliver a State of the Nation Report. The controversy over his visit may seem like a trivial matter. But it must be handled with care. The visit must not muddy the legal situation. Because any wrong move, could further distort the framework and spirit of the constitution.
The current constitution provides for a dual-leadership system. But its legal framework is badly distorted. It has a number of serious problems. One. The premier, according to the constitution, is the highest official in the executive branch. The premier is answerable to the Legislative Yuan. Two. The president, according to the Organic Law of the National Security Council -- but not the Constitution -- has three powers. The president is responsible for national defense, foreign relations, and cross-Strait relations. But the president is not answerable to the Legislative Yuan. Three. A presidential candidate requires only a plurality to be elected. Four. The Legislative Yuan lacks the right of approval over the president's appointment of premier.
This framework has led to a number of problems in the real world application of the constitution. One. Requiring only a plurality can result in the election of a minority president along with a minority legislature. Two. The president may have received an absolute majority of the vote. But his party might not be the majority party in the legislature. Three. The Legislative Yuan lacks the right of approval over the president's appoiment of premier. Therefore it cannot implement the French style "executive power track change" system. During Chen Shui-bian's first four-year term, problems one and two prevailed. During his second four year term, problems two and three prevailed.
Therefore, the problems with the current constitutional framework include all the disadvantages of the dual-leadership system and none its advantages. This was the result of the Lee and Chen regimes' effort to destroy the constitution through the deliberate abuse of the amendment process. This has resulted in a constitutional mess that will be difficult to sort out. That said, although the constitutional framework has been distorted, it nevertheless remains workable. We need only avoid deliberately laid pitfalls. We can still correct its defects. We can still guide it down the right path. Constitutional scholars often say "a constitution grows in response to practical requirements." This is just such an example.
For example, the current constitution stipulates that when the president appoints the premier, the president does not need approval from the Legislative Yuan. But the current system does not forbid a minority president from appointing a majority premier, and allowing the premier to form a cabinet. In 2000, minority president Chen Shui-bian appointed KMT leader Tang Fei premier. Chen wanted to present the illusion of having won over the majority. Had he taken advantage of the latitude provided him by the constitution to form a majority cabinet, he could have implemented an "executive power track change" system. He could have "made the constitution grow in response to practical requirements."
Chen Shui-bian should have adopted the "executive power track change" system, but did not. Today, we face the State of the Nation Report question. Should Ma Ying-jeou take this step or not? This too, warrants caution. This might be one small step for President Ma. But it could be one false leap for the constitution.
For President Ma, visiting the Legislative Yuan to deliver the State of the Nation Report, is certain to enhance the status of the president. Should he participate in either a one question one answer Q&A session? Or an all questions answered at once Q&A session? President Ma's ability to handle himself in either situation should not be underestimated. Besides, if in such a venue, the opposition DPP behaves too crudely. they will only undermine their own image. Therefore Ma Ying-jeou should not be the criterion the ruling and opposition parties use to decide whether to host a State of the Nation Report. They should consider the requirements of constitutional evolution.
The legislature could create a badly distorted constitution. No wonder it could gild the lily by passing the Law Governing the Authority of the Legislative Yuan. The constitution has evolved over the past two decades. But only when the amendments were implemented, did the public realize how despicable and ignorant the legislators who amended the constitution were. The constitution and laws must be obeyed. But the latitude allowed by the constitution and the laws should also be observed. Only then can the constitution and laws grow in response to practical requirements.
As matters stand, the president may deliver a State of the Nation Report, based on either the constitution or the Law Governing the Authority of the Legislative Yuan. The Legislative Yuan may ask for a Supplemental Question and Answer session. Legally both are possible. Years ago. Chen Shui-bian could allow the majority party to form a cabinet, even as he clung to minority government. Faced with the choice today we believe a conservative approach makes sense. The president should deliver his State of the Nation Report. But he should not participate in either a one question one answer supplementary Q&A session, or an all questions answered at one time Q&A session. Either would be tantamount to submitting to interrogation.
In fact, Ma Ying-jeou is a majority president with a legislative majority. He enjoys a number of distinct advantages. But one day a minority president with a legislative plurality could appear. The president could command only a minority in the legislature. When the Legislative Yuan convenes each year the president could be summoned to the Legislative Yuan for a one question one answer Q&A session, or an all questions answered at one time Q&A session. A precedent would be established within the system for such an annual ritual. This is a special occasion that should not be made a matter of routine.
The precedents are universal. Under a presidential system, a president never submits to questioning by a legislature; Under a cabinet system, the president never submits to questioning by a legislature. Under a dual-leadership system, the president never submits to questioning by a legislature. As we can see, we must not be reckless with our constitutional framework. Our constitutional framework has already been distorted. Therefore we must be doubly careful with its application in the real world. The opposition DPP must do more than seek opportunities to give Ma a hard time. It should consider what is best for the nation in the long run.
The president's State of the Nation Report should remain a policy statement, a vision for the future, and a national ritutal, all in one. It should not become a battlefield on which rival political parties exchange fire. This is what we advocated in our April 19 editorial This is what we advocate today.
2012.05.01 01:32 am