Legislative Despotism Will Throttle Taiwan's Future
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 25, 2014
Summary: During recent debates over the workings of the ROC government, critics
have often advanced a two-faced argument. On the one hand, they have
accused the executive branch of impotence. On the other hand, they have
accuse the executive branch of despotism. Consider the accusations of
executive branch despotism. These were particularly strident during the
Sunflower Student Movement protests. Some even shouted, "When
dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right." But is the
executive branch in fact despotic and dictatorial?
Full Text Below:
During recent debates over the workings of the ROC government, critics have often advanced a two-faced argument. On the one hand, they have accused the executive branch of impotence. On the other hand, they have accuse the executive branch of despotism. Consider the accusations of executive branch despotism. These were particularly strident during the Sunflower Student Movement protests. Some even shouted, "When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right." But is the executive branch in fact despotic and dictatorial?
Given the current political environment on Taiwan, the problem with the executive branch is not despotism, but impotence. Allegations of despotism are absurd. Allegations of dictatorship are even further from the truth.
Both impotence and despotism are highly detrimental to national development. So why is the executive branch so impotent? To begin with, both its decision-making and execution have left much to be desired. Also, a genuine despot does reside among the Taiwan authorities. That despot is the Legislative Yuan. A despotic Legislative Yuan has seriously undermined Executive Yuan governance, and precipitated a major crisis in the nation's development.
We must identify the source of the government's impotence. We cannot afford to blindly lash out at the executive branch. Turning the executive branch into a whipping boy will not solve the problem of government impotence. It will not resolve the crisis threatening our country.
Legislative Yuan despotism on Taiwan came about gradually. Seven constitutional amendments altered the system's structural framework. They gradually expanded the powers of the legislature and judiciary. For example, In 2000, the National Assembly was stripped of its powers. In 2004, the 7th constitutional amendment abolished it altogether. The legislature is now the sole remaining elective body in the central government. Both its symbolic and substantive powers were expanded substantially.
Meanwhile, two ruling party changes have resulted in political party control of the government. The era of executive dominance is over. Ruling party lawmakers are still constrainted to some extent by party discipline. But the constraints have been significantly weakened. The legislative branch has grown stronger. It has long since ceased being a rubber stamp for the Executive Yuan.
This is evident from many major bills in recent years. When the executive and legislative branches disagree, the executive branch seldom prevails.
Earlier this year, the Legislative Yuan passed the "Communications Security and Surveillance Act." It amended the law to limit police access to phone records. The ostensible goal was the protection of human rights. In fact, it severely weakened the ability of prosecutors and police to carry out their duties. When the legislature was amending the law, the public urged legislators not to react emotionally to the Ma vs. Wang dispute. They urged legislators not to amend the law in such a manner that would led to recurring problems, prevent the maintenence of order, and even harm victims' rights. But ruling and opposition legislators were unmoved. They stubbornly insisted on amending the law as an act of vengeance. The political pressure was more than the executive branch could withstand. Sure enough, as soon as the law was passed, serious problems arose. Now the legislature has no choice. It must reconsider whether to pass the Communications Security and Surveillance Act.
This unprofessional and reckless legislative process, which did not even bother to consider consequences, was not limited to the Communications Security and Surveillance Act. It has happened with many important bills and policies, including income tax reform, pension reform, and the adjustment of gasoline prices and electricity rates. Every reform bill that goes through the legislature gets altered beyond recognition. They not only fail to achieve their original objectives, they actually end up being counterproductive.
The most worrisome is the STA, which remains stalled in the Legislative Yuan. The government has only until the end of the year to sign the ROC-ROK free trade agreement. President Ma has expressed "extreme anxiety."
Taiwan and South Korea export products to the Mainland. Anong these, the overlap is between 70 and 80 percent. South Korea is about to sign an FTA with the Mainland. Once it does, tariffs will be substantially reduced. Industries on Taiwan will face fierce competition. President Ma is not the only one who is anxious. Countless members of the public are concerned about the economic future of Taiwan.
But worrying is useless. Any bills affecting cross-Strait trade or relations fall victim to the legislature, which automatically resorts to its old trick of using brute force to occupy the podium. Over the past six years, the DPP has forcibly occupied the legislature 89 times. When the legislature spins its wheels, bills cannot get out the door. As a result, the entire nation winds up spinning its wheels.
This leads us to another form of minority despotism within the Legislative Yuan. As long as a policy fails to meet with ruling and opposition party approval, a minority can occupy the legislature, paralyze Executive Yuan policy and legislation. Legislators care nothing about the plight of the country. They care nothing about the fact that our competitors are passing us while we spin our wheels.
The Legislative Yuan is responsible for stalled bills. But the Executive Yuan gets the blame for Taiwan spinning its wheels. As the expression goes, "The black dog is the one chewing on one's leg, yet the white dog is the one hit with the stick."
The people need to realize that the acid test confronting them today is no longer a "boiling frog syndrome." The pot in front of them is already at a full boil. We truly cannot sit back and watch as legislative despotism undermines our nation's future..
There is only one way to set things right. The public on Taiwan must open its eyes. They must step forward and support policies they know to be right. They must firmly support the government's efforts on behalf of cross-Strait stability and free trade. They must help the nation move in the right direction, and recover its lost competitiveness. They must clarify who the real culprit is who is hindering our nation's development, and punish them at the ballot box.