Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tsai Ing-wen's Legislative Reform Requires Speaker Neutrality

Tsai Ing-wen's Legislative Reform Requires Speaker Neutrality
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 20, 2016

Executive Summary: During the 2016 election, Tsai Ing-wen did not merely win the presidency, the DPP also won 68 seats in the 113 seat Legislative Yuan, more than 60% of those available. For the first time ever, the DPP achieved its longed for "Total Rule". The DPP must now abide strictly by the rule of law, cease taking to the streets, and cease behaving like thugs in the legislature.

Full Text Below:

During the 2016 election, Tsai Ing-wen did not merely win the presidency, the DPP also won 68 seats in the 113 seat Legislative Yuan, more than 60% of those available. For the first time ever, the DPP achieved its longed for "Total Rule". The DPP must now abide strictly by the rule of law, cease taking to the streets, and cease behaving like thugs in the legislature.

Total Rule means total responsibility for the DPP, which for the first time in history has achieved a legislative majority. The first task of the DPP in the legislature must be legislative reform. This was the Third Promise in Tsai Ing-wen's presidential campaign Five Promises.

Ko Chien-min aspires to Speaker of the Legislature. In accordance with Tsai Ing-wen's pledge of reform, Ko has presented a reform plan. Ko Chien-min has an opportunity to become Premier. For these two. legislative reform is an unshirkable duty.

"Speaker neutrality" is the first tangible benchmark of legislative reform. During the presidential campaign speaker neutrality was a blue-green consensus. Eric Chu, Tsai Ing-wen, and Ko Chien-min, all saw it as the heart of legislative reform. The question now is, will Tsai Ing-wen follow through. 

Strictly speaking, legislative neutrality in the current political environment, is mere sloganeering. Take Wang Jin-pyng for example. Based on his conduct as Speaker of the Legislature, he is probably the most “neutral" Speaker of the Legislature ever. But his "neutrality" came at a price. During caucus negotiations or legislative deadlocks, Wang Jin-pyng's “neutrality” prevented the KMT majority from passing bills or implementing policies. This prevented the implementation of the democratic principle of majority rule. Therefore Tsai Ing-wen may not want the next Speaker of the Legislature to be a DPP counterpart to Wang Jin-pyng, since he or she would weaken DPP efforts to implement its policies.

In this regard, the DPP majority should “respect the minority", while the opposition minority should “obey the majority". It should define speaker neutrality under the following conditions. Wang Jin-pyng's "neutrality for the sake of neutrality" while speaker subverted the democratic principle of majority rule. But the alternative is not a speaker who obeys the DPP without question, and does not respect the minority party. Speakers of the Legislature in Britain and Japan must resign from their parties. We of course need not go to such extremes. Nevertheless legislative protocol must be objective and neutral.  Speaker neutrality does mean partisan neutrality. It means procedural neutrality.

A speaker must be neutral. Even more importantly, he must have character. He must not be like Wang Jin-pyng during Ma Ying-jeou's administration. In 2012, Ma Ying-jeou changed the KMT's rules, allowing  Wang Jin-pyng to enjoy another term as legislator at large. This enabled him to become speaker yet again. This was a election campaign “marriage of convenience”. Wang's influence enabled him to remain “neutral”, i.e., immune to Ma's influence. Tsai Ing-wen on the other hand, won entirely by her own effort. Ko Chien-min and others have the opportunity to become speaker. But none of them are in Wang Jin-pyng's shoes. Tsai Ing-wen now enjoys a free hand in her speaker appointments. Tsai Ing-wen must consider the speaker's character, experience, image, and professionalism. She must not appoint a speaker solely on the basis of his or her willingness to implement her policies. Since the Speaker of the Legislature will be appointed by Tsai Ing-wen, she must answer for the speaker's performance, good or bad.

Another tangible benchmark is long-condemned back room deals. Strictly speaking, the law prohibits back room deals. The "Legislative Yuan Exercise of Powers Law" stipulates that negotiations must be recorded on video, audio, and published in the public media. In the past, back room deals were immune from prosecution because they increased Wang Jin-pyng's power. Smaller parties were happy to gain disproportionate power. The victims were bills and policies frozen in the legislature. These brought the executive branch to a standstill. This is why the executive branch complained about Wang Jin-pyng. Wang Jin-pyng however, wielded sufficient influence to deal with administrative branch discontent. The new Speaker of the Legislature, by contrast, will be under Tsai's total control. He or she will find it impossible to enage in back room deals. This may be a point in favor of the DPP legislative majority.

A DPP controlled legislature is likely to be united and strong. This will inevitably lead to another kind of imbalance. Smaller parties in the legislature will be marginalized. How will the KMT check and balance the DPP? We have some suggestions for the KMT and other smaller parties. First. Now that the KMT is in the opposition, it must not seek revenge. It must not resort to whatever means are necessary to paralyze the legislature. The NPP, meanwhile, must not become an appendage to the DPP. On public issues that do not involve ideology, the opposition parties must cross party lines. Only then can they increase their power to check and balance the ruling DPP. Second. Opposition parties must make good use of the Internet and people power. Together with the general public, they must increase oversight of the ruling party and prevent abuse. Third. The opposition parties must raise their standards. They must be professional in their interpolation, in order to gain support among the public.

Legislative reform requires a final ingredient. Public consciousness. Voters must change their mindset. They must not equate legislators with aldermen. Legislators must not waste their time glad-handing at market stalls, weddings, and funerals to the neglect of their duties. Legislators must remain in the legislature reviewing bills and budgets. Only this can benefit the public, grow the economy, and ensure government accountability. Unless voters' mindsets change, it will not matter how many changes there are in the ruling party.

蔡英文要改革國會 議長先中立
20160120 中國時報











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