China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 3, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai regards the existing constitutional framework as "fetters". She has totally forgotten her passionate election night rhetoric, when she ringingly proclaimed that, "The DPP will not adopt a winner takes all attitude. We will listen to the public and proceed with reform on behalf of all political parties. In my capacity as president, and my capacity as party chairman, I am issuing my first order to all members of the Democratic Progressive Party: humility, humility, and more humility.”
Full Text Below:
On October 3, President Tsai held her first "Policy Coordination Conference", which will be held on a regular basis every week. The president herself will preside over the meeting. Members will include the vice president, premier, secretary-generals of the Presidential Office and National Security Council, chief convener of the DPP Legislative Yuan party caucus, secretary-general of the DPP, CEO of the DPP think tank, and representatives from DPP governed counties and municipalities. This decision-making model amounts to "merging of party and government". The Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan are supposed to check and balance each other. Their merger is clearly contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and will inevitably lead to the resurgence of authoritarianism. For President Tsai, this is a major political gamble.
At the beginning of her term, President Tsai, like her predecessors, opted to remain behind the front line, and establish communication channels between the government, the party, the executive, and the legislature. But clearly for this president, the results have been less than ideal. Public approval of her and the premier has plummeted, forcing her to take to the front line and manage the big picture.
Will the new coordination mechanism work? That remains in question. After all, the government, the party, the executive, and the legislature, each have their own constitutional roles and functions. They each have different roles, and the public has different expectations from them. Communication barriers will always exist. If the president comes on too strong, she will merely turn any policy coordination conference into a platform by which the president can intervene directly in government affairs. Examples include the "nine-man team" during the Chen era. They were considered nothing more than yes men. The government will then move in the direction of strongman politics. Or, as during the Ma Ying-jeou era, weak presidential leadership led to long-term disagreements between the president and the legislature, divisions within the KMT, and KMT loss of rule.
The obstacles Tsai faces will be harder to overcome than those faced by the previous two presidents. Taiwan's economy faces unprecedented difficulties. Ever since the KMT government gained a foothold on Taiwan, it has never fought for merely a 1% GDP increase. Public demand for social justice has reached new highs. The DPP government must simultaneously grow the economy and promote social reform. Meanwhile, DPP goals are clearly at odds with the constitutional framework of the Republic of China. President Tsai herself uses the expression "fettered by the constitutional framework". Cross-Strait relations have deteriorated to the level of "cold confrontation". The cross-Strait power disparity is increasingly unfavorable to Taiwan. Troubled cross-Strait relations harm Taiwan's economy. The problems are interconnected, layer upon layer, and result in a vicious circle.
Ms. Tsai has two identities: President of the Republic of China, and Chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. She appears to be consciously switching between the two roles, in an attempt to fulfill both. For example, as party chairman, she published an open letter to the DPP referring to the other side as “China”, in accordance with DPP orthodoxy. She stressed that she would "resist pressure from China". But afterwards, she spoke again as president. She reverted to campaign rhetoric, and referred to the other side as "Mainland China", and responded to Mainland pressure in a low keyed manner. This was intended to moderate the conflict between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. It also represented adherence to the law. After all, President Tsai made a clear commitment in her inaugural address. She would deal with cross-Strait issues in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China and the Regulations on Cross-Strait Relations between the People.
This dichotomy shows that President Tsai is deliberately differentiating the government from the DPP. This of course runs counter to President Tsai's goal of unifying party and government. In fact, President Tsai's separation of presidency and party chairmanship will only make it more difficult for the Tsai government to coordinate with the DPP and the DPP dominated legislature. Party leaders and party legislators will not know how to proceed. The party and the government singing different tunes will pose a problem difficult to overcome.
Even more paradoxically, the "Policy Coordination Conference" appears to represent political responsibility. But it will inevitably become a DPP policy-making platform. After all, all the participants are DPP or Presidential appointees. How can this be anything other than “DPP Rules”? Moreover, if this fundamental contradiction remains unresolved, final coordination will be made by the DPP or even the President herself. Government officials will find themselves on the horns of a dilemma.
President Tsai should reconsider the logic of her Policy Coordination Conference. She may be attempting to ensure party and government unity. But she must also honor the public nature of government. Since it is public in nature, it must be subject to oversight by the opposition party and the people as a whole. Any decision-making mechanism that does not include opposition parties and citizen representatives, can hardly provide genuine checks and balances. President Tsai's Policy Coordination Conference is wanting in this respect. We maintain that President Tsai, in her capacity as party chairman, must hold talks with the chairmen of opposition parties, in order to seek consensus. As president, she must also seize the initiative and report to the Legislative Yuan for questioning. The Constitution does not require this, but it would demonstrate her willingness to accept public opinion.
President Tsai regards the existing constitutional framework as "fetters". She has totally forgotten her passionate election night rhetoric, when she ringingly proclaimed that, "The DPP will not adopt a winner takes all attitude. We will listen to the public and proceed with reform on behalf of all political parties. In my capacity as president, and my capacity as party chairman, I am issuing my first order to all members of the Democratic Progressive Party: humility, humility, and more humility.”
2016/10/3 下午 08:36:00 主筆室