President Ma Must Redouble His Efforts
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 31, 2014
Summary: The legislature has voted on the president's blue camp personnel
appointments. Many in the blue camp defected. President Chang Po-ya and
Vice President Sun Ta-chuan performed a "low altitude flyover."
President Ma's nominations included 29 blue camp candidates, including
president and vice president. Eleven were unceremoniously scrubbed.
Politically, everyone views this as a major defeat for President Ma. In
fact, this is a collective defeat for the KMT, including the smug,
self-complacent KMT legislators who imagined they were "teaching Ma a
lesson" by defecting.
Full Text Below:
The legislature has voted on the president's blue camp personnel appointments. Many in the blue camp defected. President Chang Po-ya and Vice President Sun Ta-chuan performed a "low altitude flyover." President Ma's nominations included 29 blue camp candidates, including president and vice president. Eleven were unceremoniously scrubbed. Politically, everyone views this as a major defeat for President Ma. In fact, this is a collective defeat for the KMT, including the smug, self-complacent KMT legislators who imagined they were "teaching Ma a lesson" by defecting.
The ruling KMT's job performance ratings and election prospects are not good. The KMT is like a diseased apple tree. Some KMT legislators knew the tree was sick. But instead of treating the disease, they shook the tree as hard as they could, and may have copped a few apples this way. This "shake the tree to cop a few apples" mentality has not changed with the KMT's misfortunes. If anything, it has gotten worse.
Partisan victories and defeats are hardly the most important factor. Will internal KMT disarray lead to a major defeat at the polls and cause it lose power? That is the KMT's problem. But the recent presidential blue camp appointments also offer an opportunity to reflect on structural problems. We have two recommendations, one for cases in general, and one for particular cases.
First take the general cases. Review the purpose of the Control Yuan, and clarify its raison d'etre.
Recent controversy over the Control Yuan personnel appointments triggered a debate over Control Yuan monitoring authority, and whether the Control Yuan itself is even needed. Consider the nature of Control Yuan monitoring. As this newspaper's editorials have consistently advocated, the Control Yuan does serve an important purpose. Most importantly, it overses abuse of power by the executive branch. It prevents the executive from harming the people's interests. This monitoring authority may be fo only symbolic value. But it could help keep the executive branch honest. From a psychological perspective, it may provide the people with a channel through which they can seek redress.
Now consider Control Yuan monitoring from a systemic perspective. A constitutional framework that separates powers into five branches is admittedly rare. Other countries do not have a branch of government that fulfills the role of the Control Yuan. Most make the monitoring function one of the powers of the legislature. Most do not establish an independent branch with this sort of constitutional authority. The monitoring authority is necessary. But should it be assigned to the legislature, or to another branch altogether? That is a question that can be discussed.
Independent Control Yuan constitutional authority includes operational blind spots. For example, Wang Chien-hsuan is retiring as President of the Control Yuan. But incorporating the Control Yuan's monitoring authority into the Legislative Yuan, also poses problems that must be considered. In particular, there is a problem with the caliber of those who constitute the legislature itself. Many question the soundness of granting the legislature this monitoring authority. It might not be the right way to improve the monitoring function.
Also, to reassign this monitoring authority, one must amend the constitution. In today's political climate, with extreme distrust between the ruling and opposition parties, any constitutional amendment would be impossible in the near future,
The conclusion should be clear. Monitoring authority is necessary. Reassigning monitoring authority is politically impossible for the time being. As such we should seek to maintain the five part separation of powers, and plug any loopholes in the Control Yuan, enabling it to function better.
Secondly, in particular cases, President Ma should abide by the constitution. He should be prudent in his Control Yuan nominations. As a national leader, he must engage in soul-searching over every issue. For President Ma, the Control Yuan nominations were his Waterloo. Naturally politics comes into play. There was the "September Storm," a legacy of the personal grudge between Ma and Wang. There was also the betrayal by Kuomintang legislators. The defectors' allegation that the nominees were "the worst" in the history of the Control Yuan, was cheap political rhetoric. Flames from the legislative approval battle consumed the issue of competence. The heart of the matter was ruling vs. opposition party conflict, and wrangling among factions within the KMT.
One fact is undeniable. Many of the nominees did have questionable records that opponents could cite as pretexts to reject them. President Ma must reflect upon this. President Ma must get up where he fell down. He must be guided by the constitution. He must draw up a list of new nominees. When vetting the candidates, he must be more cautious. He must not give his opponents any excuse for political mobilization. He must not leave the public with any negative impressions.
Naturally, given the current extremist political atmosphere, people of talent may see public sector employment as intimidating. Even assuming they have the courage to come forward, they can easily find themselves slapped with a blue or green label, and ground up by the system. Finding a Control Yuan member as superior and prestigious as Tao Pai-chuan is not easy. But this is exactly why President Ma must redouble his efforts.
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen took advantage of President Ma's frustrations with Control Yuan nominations to suggest that "the vacancies should be filled by the next president." This is contrary to constitutional jurisprudence. It also evinces an unseemly smugness about who the next president might be. Her obstruction of the personnel appointments was motivated by selfish partisan political calculation. Is the DPP really concerned about Control Yuan nominee fitness? If it is, it should urge President Ma to offer a list of nominees more in line with public expectations. It should not leave people with the impression that the DPP only wants to seize power.
You win some, you lose some. President Ma must learn to take defeat in stride. He must reflect on the failure of his personnel appointments. He must compile a new list that the public can trust. He must use this lost battle to win back a city. He must defend the nation's constitution and turn the Control Yuan around.