Thursday, November 8, 2007

Election Laws: From Anti-corruption to Pro-corruption

Election Laws: From Anti-corruption to Pro-corruption
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 8, 2007

Tomorrow is the deadline for the Legislative Yuan to announce its legislative elections. Fortunately the Legislative Yuan amended the election laws and completed a third reading on November 6. This avoids a situation in which the Central Election Committee has no legal basis to hold a legislative election, but instead issues an administrative order. The bizarre procedures this bill underwent during its passage reveal how both the Blue and Green camps abet corruption, kill off smaller political parties, and engage in self-serving behavior. Its passage has inflicted serious damage to our nation's electoral politics.

Take for example, the procedure for the amending and reviewing of laws, specifically the provisions for the original review committee and the legislature's two readings. These provisions suddenly turned up during the final stages of the amendment and review process, and were exempted from any discussion or vote by committee members. They were the result of secret, quid pro quo, backroom deals by representatives of the ruling and opposition parties. The Legislative Yuan's party consultative mechanisms were intended only for the review stages, for objections or reservations about articles within a bill. Instead, they were misused to give the amendments a second reading. Legally, only revisions to the swording can be made during the third reading, after consultation with political parties. The two main political camps were hijacked by the non-partisan alliance, and forced to overturn the anti-corruption provisions already reviewed and passed. How are the ruling and opposition parties going to explain the overturning of anti-corruption provisions and the substitution of provisions that abet corruption? The two parties violated the proper procedure for amending the laws. They inflicted grave damage to the second reading review mechanism and the committee review system. Their negative precedent means that future Legislative Yuan amendments will be reduced to undisguised partisan quid pro quo deal-making, carried out in smoke-filled rooms. Ordinary lawmakers unable to participate in political party consultations will be reduced to backstring benchwarmers, unable to influence policy or represent their constituents.

The legislature's amending of the election laws directly impacted legislators' personal interests as political candidates. That is why they ignored public objections and eliminated the anti-corruption provisions. But only last week, during preliminary review of bills for water management districts, the Legislative Yuan forthrightly added provisions against corruption, ruling that individuals with organized crime backgrounds be disqualified as candidates for water management district managers or committee members. Even a quasi-public water management district election requires explicit anti-corruption provisions. How can one justify the elimination of anti-corruption provisions for regular public servants? The Legislative Yuan's double standards and callous trampling over the rule of law do not pass muster with the public. The purpose of amending the election laws was to ensure the legality of the election process. But the provisions for reducing the size of the legislature by half, for a single winner, one person/two votes system, were already passed in June of 2005. The legislature should have amended the election laws long ago. What was their motive for waiting until the Central Election Committee's deadline, if not to allow the non partisan alliance to hijack the two major parties? The legislature's initial indolence and eventual haste enabled it to be hijacked and undermined the quality of the legislation.

The amendment process seriously damaged democracy and the rule of law. The content of the amendment is an even greater threat to the continued viability of the election process. For example, the new law stipulates that if small parties or new parties wish to register candidates for legislators at large or overseas legislators, they must have five serving legislators or nominate ten legislators. This new requirement means that small parties or new parties must spend nearly three million dollars in registration fees to nominate legislators at large. No wonder people suspect the two major parties of trying to kill off small parties. Another example is increasing campaign limits for legislative elections to 10 million dollars. Legislators make less than 10 million dollars in official salary during their four years in office. No wonder legislators are suspected of making provisions for vote buying. In truth many legislators' election expenses have not exceeded 10 million dollars. Therefore relaxing the upper limit doesn't mean much. It is not enough to change the current situation, in which actual expenses do not match the amounts declared. It does not promote cleaner elections, nor does it discourage vote buying.

The new election law also provides for increased government control over the content of political programming. It is nominally aimed at the fairness of political talk shows on domestic broadcast radio and television. But it is easy to see how such laws could limit freedom of expression. Besides, how does one determine what is fair? Laws do not enforce themselves. The new law may have been intended as a reference standard, but it has instead merely undermined the credibility of the legislature.

The Legislative Yuan's amending of the election laws is highly questionable, both in terms of procedure and content. It is covered with the chisel marks of selfish partisan and personal political motives. The two major political parties, together with the non partisan alliance, formed a partnership in crime. The decadence of our nation's parliamentary democracy is deeply distressing. With such a self-serving, abnormal legislature, how can we have a normal nation, with a normal democratic system, governed by the rule of law?

中國時報  2007.11.08

  趕在明天就要依法進行立委選舉公告的最後關頭,立法院總算在六日將選罷法修正案予以及時完成三讀立法程序,也避免中選會要在沒有法源依據的情況下以權宜的 行政命令方式公告立委選舉。不過這項修正案不論就審議修法過程中的諸多荒謬現象,以至修正案的諸多爭議條文,確已十足凸顯立院藍綠兩大陣營「縱容黑金,夾 殺小黨」,私心自用的真面目,更將對我國未來民主選舉政治運作造成重大傷害。

 首先值得檢討抵制的,無疑在於修法審議過程中的諸多爭議做 法。其中最為嚴重的是原始審查會與院會二讀通過的條款,竟在最後階段出現變盤,完全未經委員複議和公開討論表決的程序,而是由朝野黨團協商代表闢室密談進 行赤裸裸政黨利益交換的結果。本來立法院的政黨協商機制,只應計對委員會審查階段有異議而予保留的條文,但選罷法修正案不只已通過委員會來查,甚至也已完 成院會二讀程序,依法三讀階段只能就法條文字做斟酌損益的修改,詎料經過政黨協商,兩大黨團竟遭無黨聯盟的綁架,硬是將原已審查通過的擴大排黑條款予以翻 案封殺。姑不論立院朝野黨團如何解釋為什麼要把排黑條款翻轉為護黑條款,此舉確已違逆了立院自訂立院修法程序的程序正義,更是對委員會審查制度乃至於院會 二讀審議機制的嚴重破壞。我們更擔心此等惡例一開,未來立法院的議事修法將只剩下政黨協商代表在密室進行赤裸裸的利益交換而已。未能廁身參與政黨協商的一 般立委,則將淪為只是聊備一格的板凳立委、二軍立委。

 同樣值得關切的是,立院這次修正選罷法,由於直接關係立委自身的參選權益,因而不 顧民情期待封殺排黑條款,但是就在上周,立法院相關委員會於初審農田水利會修正案時,可是正氣凜然的新增排黑條款,規範有流氓背景者不得登記為水利會會 長、會務委員的候選人。如果屬於準公法人性質的水利會選舉都要明列排黑條款,對正規的公職人員選舉卻要硬生生地封殺排黑條款。立法院這種雙重標準的立法模 式,不只不足以服眾,更是對法治制度無情的踐踏。再者,立院此次修法,是為了讓透過修憲更改的立委選制有一個合法的運作程序,但是依憲確立單一選區兩票制 及席次減半的條款可是在九十四年六月就已通過,按說立院早應據以完成選罷法的修正,豈有等到明天中選會即要發布立委選舉公告的最後關頭,才匆匆完成修法。 也正因為修法時限的緊迫,讓無盟黨團有綁架兩大黨的空間。於此更可見立院立法怠惰於先,匆促立法於後,不只影響立法品質,更足以滋生遭綁架裹脅的後遺症。

  除了修法過程嚴重破壞民主法制,就實質修法內容予以檢視,則更不啻是在扼殺民主選舉的生機。舉其犖犖大者而言,新法規定小黨或新黨要登記參選不分區及僑選 立委,必須要有五名現任立委或提名區域立委十人以上,這項規定的現實意義就是小黨或新黨要參與不分區立委選舉的入場券為近三百萬元,難怪被質疑是兩大黨夾 殺小黨參選生機的門檻。又如放寬競選經費的上限立委為一千萬元,而立委四年任期的薪資總和甚至還不到一千萬元,因而也被質疑為是縱容黑金買票。惟就此而 論,事實上立委選舉的實際花費鮮有不超過千萬元者,因此修正放寬上限並沒有太大實質意義,更不足以改變目前選舉經費申報名實不副的現狀,對改善選舉風氣、 杜絕賄選歪風可說全無助益。

 此外,值得一談的是新選罷法也增訂了政論節目公平條款,這雖是針對目前國內廣電政論節目的公正性備受質疑所 為的補救性條款。但是這樣的條文,一來可能要被視為有限縮媒體言論表述自由之虞,另方面實際運作時又如何認定公平、公正,屆時不是會引發爭議,就是徒法不 足以自行,只能聊備一格,反而踐踏了立法的威信。


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