Tsai Ing-wen Is Exceeding Her Constitutional Authority
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 17, 2016
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen, having withdrawn her nominations for the Judicial Yuan, has appointed herself “Chief Convener” of a "National Conference on Judicial Reform", and will personally take charge of judicial reform. This has provoked condemnation by judges, who say that for a president to exceed her authority and interfere with the judiciary in this manner, amounts to "imperial rule".
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Tsai Ing-wen, having withdrawn her nominations for the Judicial Yuan, has appointed herself “Chief Convener” of a "National Conference on Judicial Reform", and will personally take charge of judicial reform. This has provoked condemnation by judges, who say that for a president to exceed her authority and interfere with the judiciary in this manner, amounts to "imperial rule". Prosecutor Eric Chen, Chairman of the Prosecutorial Reform Committee, urged the President to desist from convening any “National Conference on Judicial Reform”, and allow the Legislative Yuan to debate what must be done to reform the judiciary.
Why is Tsai Ing-wen in such a panic? Presumably she is concerned about the precipitous decline in her approval ratings. She probably wants to take charge of legal reforms in order to win back hearts and minds. But the more panicky her behavior, the more her government reveals its confusion, and the more likely she is to create chaos. Three months ago, Tsai Ing-wen won the presidency with a 56% majority. Today however, she is being accused of instituting “imperial rule”. She probably finds this hard to swallow. But has President Tsai forgotten her own admonition: “Humility, humility, and more humility”. If she has not, she will find that her new government is anything but humble.
The new government has been in power for three months. With the exception of several "apologize, apologize, and apologize again" rituals, not much has changed. The Tsai government has sharpened its knives in preparation for "Transitional Justice" and "Judicial Reform". But all that has come out of it is hasty and sloppy legislation. Worse still, the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan have established unconstitutional bodies in utter disregard of legal procedure, and total indifference to public perception. President Tsai Ing-wen may feel a powerful sense of commitment. But a president after all, is not an emperor. She must still abide by the separation of powers.
Take the Special Investigation Division for example. Merely because a single green camp legislator called for its abolition, Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san immediately obliged. He did not even bother to wait for the legislature to debate and amend the law before announcing an abolition date. What is this, but the abuse of executive power? A closer look reveals that abolishing the Special Investigation Division was not Chiu Tai-san's personal wish. He was merely currying favor with the President. If that was the case, then Tsai Ing-wen was effectively granting Chen Shui-bian a “pardon in disguise”. Chen Shui-bian has already been granted "medical parole". Now that the Special Investigation Division has been abolished, the charges that have yet to be filed against him have already been wiped clean? Just how many political sleights of hand have been hidden beneath the label of “judicial reform”?
Consider the “recovery of illicit KMT party assets” for example. Several provisions of the law are clearly questionable. Establishing an agency under the Executive Yuan is highly inappropriate. The DPP however, ignored this. It used its majority to ram the bill through the legislature. Compare the behavior of the DPP to that of the KMT. Which has behaved in a more civilized manner? Nor was that all. President Tsai appointed the politically biased Ku Li-hsiung Chairman of the "Illicit Party Assets Handling Committee". She made no bones about the entire process being motivated by revenge, and that the end justified the means. Do such cheap, crude power games have anything to do with transitional justice?
Abolishing the Special Investigation Division and recovering KMT party assets reflect the expansion of executive power. The two differ only in degree. The President has appointed herself “Chief Convener” of the "National Conference on Judicial Reform". This amounts to an even more flagrant exceeding of executive authority. The Constitution separates the powers of government into five branches. The President of the Republic of China may nominate the President of the Judicial Yuan and the President of the Examination Yuan. But the President may not interfere with the administration of justice. Tsai Ing-wen is determined to take charge of judicial reform. But she has drawn fire from the legal world for "imperial rule", because she exceeded her powers as executive. President Tsai may have an intense desire to promote judicial reform. But any such reforms must be consistent with the Constitution and the law. Only then can her nominations win public trust. She must appoint people trusted by the legal world to the Judicial Yuan, instead of diving into the water and appointing herself judicial reformer. One may be filled with reformist zeal. But if one fails to understand the limits of power, one poses a severe danger to the nation.
Even executive authority is divided between the President and the Premier. Coordination between the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, and the ruling party has been lacking. As a result, President Tsai has frequently exceeded her authority. She has interfered with the duties of the Premier and Ministers. For example, the Investment Commission has just issued a deadline for Uber divestment. The Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan immediately slammed on the brakes. The Ministry of Labor implemented a policy of "one day off for every seven days worked". President Tsai immediately issued a solemn promise of "two-day weekends" These missteps have left the pubic at a loss. They have left officials incapable of formulating policy. The new government has stumbled badly. It has blundered repeatedly. Much of the problem lies here.
President Tsai may genuinely want reform. Observers see this. But in the short time she has spread herself too thin. She lacks the manpower and the drive to follow through. She may be eager to achieve her goals. But she has ridden roughshod over due process. She has exceeded her authority, and has raised constitutional concerns.
2016-08-17 05:48 聯合報 聯合報社論