An Unrepresentative Legislature Has Become a Potemkin Village
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
August 9, 2013
Summary: Ruling and opposition party consultation mechanisms in the
legislature must be improved. Legislators must be more capable and
experienced. The influence of professional legislators must be
increased. Only this can increase the quality of legislation. This
includes the role of the Premier. He must maintain procedural harmony.
He must demand more from democracy. After all, if a legislature cannot
function, the nation has lost one of its mainstays. The legislature has
lost its representative role. Such a legislature is nothing more than a
Full text below:
The second emergency session of the legislature has hastily adjourned. It addressed the Kuang Ta Hsing case and passed the Fisheries Act. It addressed the Hung Chung-chiu case and amended the Military Justice Act. It also passed a handful of Organizational Acts. The referendum on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant and TISA attracted much public attention. The opposition DPP forcibly occupied the podium. The ruling KMT chose to leave the battlefield and end the session. The legislature has become nothing more than a "town hall meeting." It has demeaned its own role at the heart of the political process, and relagated itself to the political margins.
The last few sessions of the legislature have left the public with two impressions. One. The legislature remains mire in endless struggle. When the opposition encounters a bill it dislikes, it forcibly occupies the podium or the entire hall. It shuts down any and all legislative business. The ruling party is impotent against such tactics. Two. The legislature has no shortage of "smoke filled backrooms." Legislators achieve nothing during the legislative process. But they achieve plenty during secret negotiations in smoke filled backrooms. Bills are like meat being sold at the wet markets. They are put on the chopping block and sold according to weight.
Ruling and opposition party legislators may be oblivious to all this. But such scenes of willful decadence have reduced the legislature from a starring role to a bit player, from an opinion leader to an opinion follower. The public now despise the legislature. Think about it. In the past, important constitutional amendments, environmental protection bills, and economic development bills were passed within the halls of the legislature. The two sides debated the issues. Together, they formulated policy. But how long has it been since the legislature has led public opinion, set the agenda, or stimulated our imaginations?
The legislature's silence and decline is the result of several factors. One. Legislators are mediocre. Their quality has declined. Changes in the electoral system and Blue vs. Green confrontation have displaced rational politics. Mediocrities and extremists hold sway. A deterioration in the quality of legislation is inevitable. Legislators no longer have the ability to discern right from wrong. The principle of "The minority defers to the majority, the majority respects the minority" is ignored. Instead "The majority defers to the minority, and the minority brings everything to a grinding halt." Because the opposition cannot offer rational arguments, it stops the proceedings. Taiwan's democracy has become an international joke. People's ballots have become pieces of waste paper.
Two. The ruling KMT has lost its will and cohesiveness. The KMT commands an absolute majority in the legislature. Yet on individual issues, the ruling party is unable to control its legislators. Many Blue Camp legislators have personal interests in mind. They are indifferent to central government decision-making. The executive branch must defer to ruling party legislators, but they do not trust them. Ruling KMT legislators lack any sense of participation in policy making. This results in a serious disconnect between policy implementation and legislation. The "ruling party" in the legislature rules in name only.
Three. Ruling and opposition party consultation is subject to abuse. The legalization of consultation mechanisms has led to the settling of ruling and opposition party disputes through interparty negotiations, rather than policy debate. In fact, opposition DPP obstructionism is often merely a ploy to gain an edge during backroom negotiations. As a result, proper procedures are cast aside, and a handful of people settle everything under the table. This is not representative democracy, but oligopoly.
The abuse of consultation mechanisms have another effect. It undermines legislative professionalism. A democratic legislature requires experienced professional legislators. They play an important role in the legislative process. But a system of "consultation on everything" overturns the opinions of professional legislators. Such legislators do not command the same attention as demagogues who engage in histrionics. As a result they retreat from the battlefield and resign themselves to "responding to current events." None of this is surprising.
People accuse the president and executive branch of incompetence. But they must acknowledge that much of the problem originates in the legislative branch of government. Think about it. The legislature rushed through a Military Justice Bill just days after the incident erupted. The National Security Law was amended with inadequate deliberation, and rushed through a Third Reading. The referendum on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant should have been debated. TISA, pension reform, and the bond bill were all shelved without any debate. How can such a legislature serve the nation? Today's legislature neither debates policy nor authors legislation. It does not even cultivate political leaders. How can such a legislature have any expectations of itself?
To enhance the function of government, the ruling party must increase coordination with the government. It must expand participation in policy making. Party legislators must be made part of the decision-making process. Only this can win their support in the legislature. Ruling and opposition party consultation mechanisms in the legislature must be improved. Legislators must be more capable and experienced. The influence of professional legislators must be increased. Only this can increase the quality of legislation. This includes the role of the Premier. He must maintain procedural harmony. He must demand more from democracy. After all, if a legislature cannot function, the nation has lost one of its mainstays. The legislature has lost its representative role. Such a legislature is nothing more than a Potemkin Village.
2013.08.09 01:36 am