Dissolve the Legislature, Begin Anew
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
October 1, 2013
Summary: Yesterday, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang said the DPP supports the dissolution of the Legislature and a new election. The DPP boasts that it "loves Taiwan." We urge the people to stand up and demand that the DPP walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. KMT lawmakers must wake up. They are sinking in quicksand, dying a slow death. They might as well launch a last-ditch struggle for a stable power base. Let the Legislative Yuan hold a new election. Only then will it truly reflect current public sentiment, and allow a return to constitutional rule.
Full text below:
The ruling KMT Speaker of Legislature and the opposition DPP Party Whip conspired to peddle influence with the Judiciary. As Chairman of the ruling KMT, the President attempted to revoke the Speaker of the Legislature's party membership and force him to resign from the Legislative Yuan. But the court blocked the attempt. The opposition DPP then seized the opportunity to force the President to resign. This started a chain reaction that has plunged Taiwan into its most serious constitutional crisis in history. The Executive Yuan cannot govern. The Legislative Yuan remains deadlocked. The Judicial Yuan is mired in a controversy over wire tapping and has lost the confidence of the public. People feel more confused, uncertain, and powerless than ever.
It pains us to note that Taiwan today lacks any sense of direction. It cannot find its target. It remains deadlocked. It persists in endless power struggles. It resembles a critically ill patient in ICU, totally dependent upon life support. Unless it undergoes major surgery, the prognosis is grim. No one knows how bad it will get. We solemnly urge a subjective and objective reevaluation of the current situation, and a thorough examination of future outcomes, both positive and negative. The president should invoke the "right to dissolve the Legislature" provided for in the amended constitution. He should call for a new Legislative Yuan election, enabling the public to express its will and dissolve the constitutional deadlock. This is the most effective, most powerful, most honorable, and most thorough solution. It is the best way to distinguish right from wrong, and to find our way out of the current dilemma.
The right to dissolve the legislature and the vote of no confidence (a legislative vote of no confidence regarding the premier) is a constitutional provision implemented in 1997 by the ROC 4th National Assembly. Its purpose was to avoid gridlock between the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan. Prolonged gridlock can undermine national development. But the new provision also changed the constitutional framework. It changed it from a dual leadership cabinet system to a semi-presidential system. The Additional Articles to the Constitution stipulate that "The Legislative Yuan may, with the support of one third or more of its members, call for a vote of no confidence in the Premier. After the no-confidence motion is put forward... it shall... vote on the motion via secret ballot. If the motion is approved by over half of the members, the Premier shall resign within 10 days, and may petition the President to dissolve the Legislative Yuan." In other words, when the Legislative Yuan casts a vote of no confidence in the Executive Yuan, and the no-confidence vote is successful, the President must replace the Premier. He can also announce the dissolution of the Legislative Yuan.
The above mentioned constitutional provisions show that the president's right to dissolve the Legislature is a form of passive defense against a Legislature's no confidence vote. Its purpose is to maintain stability. Another purpose is to provide for new elections that reflect current public opinion in the event deadlocks are intractable and confrontations are serious. New Legislative elections enable one to clear the air and begin anew. In fact, the resignation of the cabinet and the corresponding right to dissolve the Legislature have a much lower threshold than the impeachment or recall of the president. This means it is more likely to happen and the process must be more efficient. This means of resolving constitutional impasses has existed for 16 years. Due to our political culture and other concerns, it has never been used. But Taiwan today is politically gridlocked. If President Ma and the ruling and opposition parties refuse to remain rational and pragmatic, and invoke this constitutional provision now, when it is needed, when will they invoke it?
Of course, actually dissolving the Legislature will lead to Machievellian political intrigues among the political parties, as well as among ruling and opposition party legislators. It will lead to calculations about gained or lost seats following the election. Legislators may find their terms cut short. They may face greater risks and require more campaign funding. These will all determine whether a new Legislative election is possible. The problem is, everyone knows the gridlock must be broken. Current legislators have two years left in their terms. Do they really want the nation paralzyed, the government idled, and the public panicked? Ruling and opposition party legislators all have their own interests. But can government and party leaders sit idly by, doing nothing?
Given current circumstances, most people think a new Legislative election will reduce the number of seats currently held by the KMT. If that is the case, and gridlock persists, public resentment against the ruling KMT will only increase. The ruling Kuomintang's illusory majority will only diminish. It will only find it more difficult to turn the tide. Next year's local elections could turn into a rout. The 2016 presidential election could lead to ruling party change. President Ma has long valued right and wrong. He is decent and incorruptible. He must embrace the possibility of defeat followed by eventual resurrection. He must forthrightly uphold constitutional rule. He must exercise initiative. He must explain to the people the reason for his devotion to principles. He must fight for his legacy. If he sits passively, and fails to take action, he will be relentlessly criticized and remain misunderstood until the end. If President Ma puts up a fight, he can turn the tide. The outcome of the new election is not a forgone conclusion.
Yesterday, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang responded passively. He said the DPP supports the dissolution of the Legislature and a new election. But his party lacks the seats to call for a vote of no confidence. Su Tseng-chang may pay lip service to the dissolution of the Legislature. But he cannot avoid Machiavellian political calculations. The DPP boasts that it "loves Taiwan." We urge the people to stand up and demand that the DPP walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. KMT lawmakers must wake up. They are sinking in quicksand, dying a slow death. They might as well launch a last-ditch struggle for a stable power base. Let the Legislative Yuan hold a new election. Only then will it truly reflect current public sentiment, and allow a return to constitutional rule.