United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 18, 2015
Full Text Below: Tainan City Mayor Lai Ching-teh has refused to appear before the Tainan City Council, on the grounds that City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao is under suspicion of bribery. This has gone on for nearly six months. The mayor's office insists that Lai's actions have not undermined the functioning of the Tainan city government. But the Tainan City Council has been shut down for six months. Budgets must be reviewed. Lai's conduct has already impacted new construction projects. Lai Ching-teh purports to be "defending the dignity of Tainan". In fact he is undermining the legitimacy of public institutions. He is leaving the city government in an unsupervised state. His conduct is arrogant and anti-democratic.
Tainan City Mayor Lai Ching-teh has refused to appear before the Tainan City Council, on the grounds that City Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao is under suspicion of bribery. This has gone on for nearly six months. The mayor's office insists that Lai's actions have not undermined the functioning of the Tainan city government. But the Tainan City Council has been shut down for six months. Budgets must be reviewed. Lai's conduct has already impacted new construction projects. Lai Ching-teh purports to be "defending the dignity of Tainan". In fact he is undermining the legitimacy of public institutions. He is leaving the city government in an unsupervised state. His conduct is arrogant and anti-democratic.
One mayor's arrogance has paralyzed an entire city council. This is something seldom seen in a democracy. Lee Chuan-chiao is under suspicion for bribery. This of course is lamentable. But just how serious is his crime? That must be determined by the justice system. Only then can one conclude whether he is guilty and how he should be punished. Therefore, no matter how disgusted Lai Ching-teh might be with Lee Chuan-chiao, he has no right to vent his spleen on the city council. Lai has not merely expressed anger. He has appointed himself judge, jury, and executioner. He has undermined democracy's system of checks and balances.
Note how these events played out. Lai Ching-teh made three obvious mistakes. First, he projected his hatred of Lee Chuan-chiao onto the city council as a whole. He equated the city council's inquiry results with Lee Chuan-chiao's confession. He equated an individual with an organization. He allowed his personal feelings to run wild. The parliamentary system in a democracy enables the people to oversee the administration of a city. It is a collegial institution. It operates according to a set of established rules. It does not snap to a Speaker of the City Council's commands. Lai Ching-teh is angry at Lee Chuan-chiao. Therefore he refuses to appear before the city council. Lai simply does not understand how the parliamentary system works.
Second, during the nine in one elections Lai Ching-teh triumphed with 72% of the vote. This of course represents a high degree of public support. As a result, Lai has justified his refusal to appear before the city council as "safeguarding the dignity of the people". Lai misunderstands democracy. Mayor Lai received 710,000 votes. But lest we forget, every member of the city council was also elected by the same voters, one vote at a time. The ruling and opposition city council members received 970,000 votes, more than Lai's 710,000 votes. These 970,000 votes also represent public opinion in Tainan, do they not? How can we permit Lai to ignore that? In other words, Lai Ching-teh is using his voter support to trample over the workings of the city council. This reveals a sort of "political narcissism". Lai may be corruption free. But his refusal to submit to city council oversight poses a grave threat to democracy.
Third, the Control Yuan has summoned Lai Ching-teh about this matter. Lai Ching-teh alleges that the dispute between his administration and the city council is a political issue, and not a legal issue. Therefore the Control Yuan has no authority to become involved. Lai's overweening egocentrism reveals his contempt for democracy. In fact this alleged "political issue" has two aspects. The first is institutional. The second is technical. Lai Ching-teh's refusal to appear before the city council is merely a technical maneuver, intended to force Lee Chuan-chiao to surrender. But Lai's refusal to appear before the city council has brought the latter to a grinding halt. The checks and balances in local self-government have been nullified, seriously undermining its democratic institutions and threatening political disaster. Has Lai considered this distinction at all? Lai Ching-teh's populist style has caused provoked numerous conflicts in the Tainan city government. Does he even care? Besides, this is all the excuse Lai needs to ignore city council oversight of his administration. People are now calling him "the Emperor of Tainan". Is this worth it?
A verdict in the Lee Chuan-chiao vote buying case is near impossible in the near term. if Lai Ching-teh continues to use it as a pretext for refusing to appear before the city council, Tainan's democracy and local autonomy will be seriously undermined. Many policies cannot be implemented. Even more seriously, Lai has effectively declared the recent election of ruling and opposition Tainan city counci members null and void. This is unacceptable. Green camp members should refuse to take part in this dog and pony show. The DPP party leadership should persuade Lai to abide by the parliamentary system.
We must remind Lai Ching-teh of three things. First, your opponent is Lee Chuan-chiao, not the Tainan City Council. To teach Lee Chuan-chiao a lesson by refusing to appear before the city council is barking up the wrong tree. Second, all elected officials are obligated to accept legislative oversight. This is part of democracy's system of checks and balances. This is not a matter of individual discretion. This is hardly something an individual elected official can ignore. Thirdly, a mature politician should behave in a manner consistent with proportionality. Any fight against political opponents must employ appropriate means. One may not sacrifice representative institutions. One may not trample over the interests of the voters.
Over the years, Lai Ching-teh has enjoyed high approval ratings. He has a reputation for honesty and diligence. Unfortunately, using Lee Chuan-chao as an excuse to refuse to appear before the city council seriously undermines democracy. Lai Ching-teh remains oblivious to this fact. Besides, Lai was supposed to relent at some point in time. But he has not given either the city council or himself any means of retreat. This political superstar has gradually revealed the dark side of his psyche. He has left serious doubts about his eligibility for higher office. How can someone who does not respect a city council, respect democracy? Suppose he suddenly became Tsai Ing-wen's running mate? Many voters have watched his arrogant behavior in the Tainan city government? How many of them could bring themselves to vote for such a ticket?
儘管市府強調此舉並不影響市政推動，可是，台南議會停擺半年， 許多預算審查工作無法進行，已影響新的工程發包計畫。 更嚴重的是，賴清德假藉「捍衛台南尊嚴」之名， 事實上是在踐踏民意機關的正當性，也讓市政處於無監督狀態， 這是反民主的傲慢行為。
在民主國家是罕見的例子。李全教涉嫌賄選固然可鄙可議， 但其罪行究竟有多嚴重，必須經由司法機關審理， 才能決定是否有罪或如何制裁。因此， 無論賴清德對李全教的作為多麼深惡痛絕， 他不能將自己的不滿轉而發洩在議會體制上，這不僅是「遷怒」， 而且不啻動用「私刑」，更破壞了民主政治的議會制衡體制。
第一，他把自己對李全教的痛恨折射為對整個議會的杯葛， 把進入議會報告備詢視同為對李全教之臣服，這是對「人」與「 機構」的嚴重混淆，也是個人情緒的過度渲染。須知， 民主制度的議會設計，是要代表人民來監督市府的行政， 它是一個合議機構，運作有一套既定的規則可循，並不聽從「議長」 的指揮。因此，賴清德因氣憤李全教而拒赴議會， 是他根本曲解了議會設計之精神。
可謂獲有極高的民意支持；也因此，他悍拒出席議會即自稱是為了「 維護市民的尊嚴」，這卻是民主認知的謬誤。原因是， 賴市長固得到七十一萬張選票的支持，但別忘了， 所有議員也是市民一票一票選出來的， 朝野議員的得票加總是九十七萬票，大於七十一萬票。 這九十七萬票，是台南市所有民意的總合，豈容抹殺？換言之， 賴清德以個人的民意支持來踐踏議會的運作，是一種「自我中心」 式的政治觀；就算他個人再清廉，但拒絕接受監督、一意孤行， 這對民主都是一種可怕的威脅。
賴清德辯稱府會之爭是政治問題，不是法律問題， 監院沒有權力介入此事；這種「唯我獨尊」的態度， 暴露出他民主素養缺乏。所謂「政治問題」其實有兩個層次： 一是體制層次，二是技術層次。賴清德「拒赴議會」， 只是戰略的技術運用，意圖使李全教屈服；但是， 由於他拒赴議會而導致議會空轉， 更引發地方自治的制衡機制遭到掏空，破壞民主體制， 是更嚴重的政治崩壞。這點區別，他沒想過嗎？ 賴清德目空一切的民粹作風，已引起台南議會內部多次衝突， 他於心何忍？再說，用這種藉口將自己所有施政都避開議會監督， 因而得到「台南皇帝」的封號，划得來嗎？
如果賴清德繼續以此為由拒赴議會， 將對台南的民主體制和地方自治造成嚴重的傷害， 使許多施政無法正常進行。更嚴重的是，由於這樣的僵局， 他也形同宣告本屆當選的台南朝野議員暫時「作廢」， 這是民主體制難以接受的事，不僅綠營議員不應扮演犬馬供其驅遣， 民進黨中央也應該規勸他回歸議會體制。
不是台南市議會；為打擊李全教而拒赴議會，是找錯了敵人。第二， 任何民選首長，有接受議會監督的義務， 這是基於民主體制的制衡設計，不是個人能夠選擇，遑論拒絕。 第三，一個成熟的政治人物，行事要合乎比例原則；為打擊政敵， 也必須採取具有正當性的手段，不可任意犧牲代議體制， 更不能踐踏選民的權益。
他的清廉與勤政也素有口碑。遺憾的是， 他以李全教為藉口輕率宣布「拒赴議會」， 嚴重踐踏了民主體制而不自知；而且， 原本應該在某些時間點上選擇轉圜， 他也沒有給議會和自己留下任何餘地。至此， 這位政治明星便漸漸暴露了他偏執的一面，這點， 恐怕在他更上層樓之路將留下一個重大的疑點： 一個連代議體制都不尊重的人，會有什麼民主素養？別的不說， 如果今天他被選為蔡英文的搭檔副手， 許多選民光看到他在台南府會衝突表現的傲慢，票還投得下去嗎？