Assume Responsibility for Constitutional Rule
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
October 2, 2013
Summary: The Shanghai Free Trade Area has been officially launched. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Region remains mired in political struggle, and unable to extricate itself. The Legislative Yuan has shut down four times after reconvening. The Premier is prevented from fulfilling his constitutional duties and obligations. He is prevented from addressing the legislature and answering questions. Who knows when major bills can be passed? The government is in a state of semi-paralysis.
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The Shanghai Free Trade Area has been officially launched. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Region remains mired in political struggle, and unable to extricate itself. The Legislative Yuan has shut down four times after reconvening. The Premier is prevented from fulfilling his constitutional duties and obligations. He is prevented from addressing the legislature and answering questions. Who knows when major bills can be passed? The government is in a state of semi-paralysis.
Is the struggle between Ma and Wang merely a personal grudge? Or is it a battle between right and wrong? Either way, it has led to executive vs legislative branch and ruling vs. opposition party political wrangling. As far as the people are concerned, personal grievances between power holders must not override the national interest. Power struggles between political parties must not trample the rights of the people. The national interest and the rights of the people must take precedence over their power struggles.
Is the current political storm the result of a conflict between the president and the speaker of the legislature? If it is, then it is a constitutional matter. Constitutional matters call for political solutions. President Ma has characterized the struggle as a matter of morality. He argues that when it became a matter of criminal justice, it must be handled according to due process of law. Now that the High Court has dismissed the KMT's appeal, Wang Jin-pyng's occupational status is temporarily assured. The public looks to the government to restore normal operations. Ma and Wang should suspend all other political and legal actions. Each should return to his constitutionally mandated post, and fulfill his own constitutional responsibilities.
The premier's situation in the legislature involves constitutional gridlock. That highlights the DPP's stubborn insistence that unless Premier Chiang apologizes, he will not be allowed to enter the Legislative Yuan, any address be damned. So here is a question. Once the central government general budget is sent to the Legislature, will it still refuse to allow Premier Chiang to speak? The Legislature has refused to hear the Premier. Therefore according to the Additional Articles to the Constitution, it must call for a vote of no confidence. It may not stonewall forever, inflicting slow death on the legislature and the executive.
Ruling and opposition party legislators have calculated the cost of their reelection campaigns. They are refusing to dissolve the legislature and call for a vote of no confidence. They have no problem pocketing their generous salaries while allowing the legislature to remain idle. They long ago became the malignancy afflicting democracy on Taiwan, but have yet to acknowledge it. Now consider the matter of impeachment. The threshold for impeaching the President is high.The threshold for a vote of no confidence, by contrast, is relatively low. Calling for the resignation of the cabinet requires a motion by only one-third of all legislators. It is not difficult for the opposition to make such a motion. As the majority party, the ruling Kuomintang must bear responsibility. It has two choices. One. It can refuse to allow such a motion to pass. Another vote of no confidence cannot be proposed within one year. By then the critical 2014 seven in one election will be upon us. By then a vote of no confidence will be irrelevant. The legislature should allow Premier Chiang to fulfill his constitutional duty and obligations.
Two. The KMT can allow the motion for a vote of no confidence to pass, and the legislature to be dissolved. It can allow current public sentiment regarding influence peddling and wire tapping to determine what is politically right and wrong. President Ma will then have to bear responsibility in the even the KMT loses its majority in the legislature. Wang Jin-pyng and the DPP will also have to answer to the public. The KMT could retain its majority, and rehabilitate its image. It could drastically change the suffocating atmosphere in the smoke filled back rooms of today's legislature. But suppose the Kuomintang fails to win a majority? It would be forced to accept a coalition government, or relinquish executive power. The President would be forced to hand over political power. Ma would be in limbo for another two years. Whenever he went out in public, he would have shoes thrown at him. If he chose to hide out in the presidential residence, he would be beseiged by protestors. No decrees would issue from the presidential palace. But at least this would give Taiwan a chance to begin anew.
Consider current reality. Executive Yuan functioning is hampered left and right. Wang Jin-pyng and DPP party whip Ker Chien-ming are pleased as punch with their backroom deals and their manipulation of legislative operations. But at least 40 bills are stalled in the legislature. TISA urgently needs review and approval. The earliest it can pass is by the end of the year. That means agreements between the ROC and other countries will be delayed. The decision whether to continue construction on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant or to shut it down has been delayed. Pension reform has been shelved. The Executive Yuan Organization Act leaves several ministries in limbo. These entities have not even had the chance to put up signs, let alone change their assignments.
In an even more outrageous development, the DPP minority has been able to paralyze the legislature. The KMT majority has been unable to control the podium. It has failed to ensure the passage of bills. Committee review has nearly collapsed under the weight of systemic backroom deals. Bills and budgets are no longer formulated by professionals. They have become sacrificial offerings in party to party transactions. When bills fail to pass, legislator take no responsibilty. Instead, the people as a whole suffer the consequences.
The Taipei District Court has already issued an injunction preserving Wang Jin-pyng's party membership. The KMT's appeal has been rejected. It can appeal again, but its chances of success are remote. Any civil action is bound to be delayed for some time. Meanwhile the president and the speaker of legislature each have their own constitutional responsibilities. These cannot be postponed indefinitely.
The priority now is for the President to resolve the executive and legislative impasse. Wang Jin-pyng has temporarily retained his official position. He must perform well as speaker of the legislature. He must prove that he can get things done. Allow Premier Chiang to deliver his policy address. He must make every effort to convince the opposition to compromise. If he cannot, he must ensure that major policies and budgets are not delayed. In particular, TISA, which impacts Taiwan's competitiveness in the service sector, cannot be indefinitely delayed.