Monday, February 1, 2016

The National Legislature is not a Local Town Hall

The National Legislature is not a Local Town Hall
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 2, 2016

Executive Summary: Everyone wants legislative reform. But merely reforming legislative protocol is insufficient. The DPP must also reform its political style and personal manners. Unless legislators behave in a civilized manner, standards of conduct in the legislature will not improve. Taiwan's harsh political environment will not improve.

Full Text Below:

Yesterday, under Tsai Ing-wen's guidance, the DPP made Su Chia-chuan and Tsai Chi-chang Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Yuan. This came as no surprise. Wang Jin-pyng's 17 year long rein in the legislature came to an end. Tsai Ing-wen took her first step toward "Total Rule". This also marked the beginning of new challenges for the DPP. The Legislative Yuan has long been regarded as the least efficient branch of government. A full 67% of the public is unhappy with the Legislative Yuan's performance. One reason was opposition DPP obstructionism. Once Tsai is in power, she must focus not on controlling the Legislative Yuan, but on raising the standards of conduct for ruling DPP legislators.

Before the election, the ruling and opposition parties discussed legislative reform. They advanced a number of ideas. Basically, the two largets parties' proposals were remarkably similar. Both advocated raising standards of conduct for legislators, eliminating secret deals, increasing the transparency of interparty negotiations, and ensuring legislative speaker neutrality. These issues are nothing new. Wang Jin-pyng and Ko Chien-min, the biggest beneficiaries of secret deals, opposed reform. Nearly everyone else however, supported it. Wang Jin-pyng has now been reduced to the level of an ordinary legislator. The KMT has become a minority party. This has resulted in an opportunity for reform. Alas, Ko Chien-min remains the leader of the DPP legislative caucus. He remains responsible for DPP legislative caucus strategy. Will he relinquish his habit of political manipulation? That remains to be seen.

Improving standards of conduct for legislators requires  professionalism and efficiency. Equally important to legislative reform is an individual legislators' political style and cultural sophistication. Legislators' standard of conduct has long remained at the level of a local town hall. Here are some concrete examples that may refresh our readers' memories.

Example One. When DPP legislator Chen Ting-fei interpolated Academia Sinica Vice President Liu Tsui-jung, the president was on leave. Vice President Liu could not answer certain technical questions. Chen Ting-fei excoriated Liu relentlessly, until she was reduced to tears. Other legislators humiliate officials, scream personal insults, and pound tables as a matter of routine. Neither sitting nor retired officials are spared. Occasionally someone like former Minister of Education Huang Jung-tsun will resign in protest. But most sit in silence in order to survive. Legislators humiliate officials as a matter of routine. Shouldn't their parties restrain them? Shouldn't their parties subject them to disciplinary action?

Example Two. DPP legislators routinely engage in obstructionism. During caucus consultations, when the speaker announces a rest period, nearly 50 government heads and hundreds of aides are forced to sit and do nothing. The executive branch of the entire nation is virtually shut down. Take the previous legislative session for example. Legislators frequently engaged in obstructionism over issues such as nuclear power, food safety, and the STA. Officials were forced to sit and do nothing the entire time. According to High Court Constitutional Interpretation Number 342, if the Legislative Yuan engages in "self-destructive behavior", no one may intervene. But anyone who cares about his nation and society, should not engage in self-destructive behavior that also harms the nation. The legislature could easily wait until a consensus has been reached before summoning officials. It could require them to return half an hour after receiving a notification from the speaker. That would be a reasonable reform. Why doesn't the legislature pass it? Why shouldn't both the ruling and opposition party caucuses support it?

Example Three. Legislators must demonstrate respect for fellow legislators as well as officials. Legislators have the right of interpolation, along with budget and oversight powers. But these are powers delegated to them by the people. They do not mean that legislators and officials are unequal. They do not mean that legislators may treat officials with contempt. Male officials summoned to the legislature are required to wear "official clothing". This includes a suit and tie and leather shoes. Legislators have refused to allow officials to remove their suits in response to energy conservation requirements. But what do our legislators wear? Tennis shoes, blue jeans, pullovers, golf jackets, and other casual wear. What do Duan Yi-kang, Liu Chien-kuo, and other legislators wear? Compare that with what Members of Parliament in the Anglo-American countries, in Japan and in France wear. The dress code for the Legislative Yuan is grossly unfair. This reflects the unequal manner in which legislators and officials are treated.

Legislators' attitudes and manners are as important as operational efficiency. This is because an "official environment" is important. For years, the atmosphere in the Legislative Yuan has been one of contempt for officials. Over time this has led to a situation in which "those who come are men of evil, because men of virtue are no longer willing to come”. Men of character and dignity flatly refuse cabinet appointments to avoid undeserved humiliation in the Legislative Yuan. This leads to the “survival of the unfittest”, and to inexorable decline in the quality of governance. The executive branch's poor performance, then provides legislators with genuine justification for their contempt. Shouted humiliation and table pounding merely lowers the standards of government officials. This vicious cycle is a key reason for decline in Taiwan's governance. Tsai Ing-wen trumpets “new politics” and “fundamental reform”. If she is serious, she must demand that DPP legislators change their political style, personal manners, and habits of speech.

Everyone wants legislative reform. But merely reforming legislative protocol is insufficient. The DPP must also reform its political style and personal manners. Unless legislators behave in a civilized manner, standards of conduct in the legislature will not improve. Taiwan's harsh political environment will not improve.


在蔡英文的強勢主導下,民進黨推出的候選人蘇嘉全和蔡其昌,昨天一如預期地順利當選立法院 正副院長,為王金平主導十七年的國會時代劃下句點,也讓蔡英文的「完全執政」跨出第一步。然而,這也是民進黨新政治挑戰的起點:立法院一向被視為最沒有效 率的機關,有六成七的民眾不滿意立法院的表現,其中民進黨在野之杯葛更是一大因素;蔡英文執政後,不應只著眼於掌控立法院,而應設法提升最大黨立委的問政 文化。

大選前,朝野即對國會改革有過一番辯論,並提出各自主張。基本上,兩黨對議事改革的方向相當接近:都主張要提升委員會的審議功能、 廢除密室協商而提升協商透明度、國會議長必須超越黨派等。這些問題已是老生常談,除了王金平與柯建銘兩位「密室最大受益人」反對外,幾乎人人贊成。如今, 王金平變成陽春立委,國民黨淪為小黨,不失為一個改革契機。問題在,柯建銘仍擔任黨團總召,握有運籌帷幄的大權;他能不能一改政治操弄的惡習,有待觀察。


其 一,是立委陳亭妃對中央研究院副院長劉翠溶的質詢,當時,只不過因為院長請假,而代理的副院長無法回答若干專業問題,陳亭妃就以咄咄逼人的蠻橫態度把劉翠 溶當場罵哭。其他立委對官員羞辱、厲聲斥責、人身攻擊、咆哮拍桌者,則是無日無之。卸任或現任官員被掃中者,除了偶有如前教育部長黃榮村能辭職以示抗議之 外,絕大多數都只能「忍辱偷生」。這種立委羞辱官員的近乎常態,政黨該不該約束?該不該有紀律處分?

其 二,是總質詢期間所有議事杯葛、黨團協商、主席宣布「休息」的時間,立法院把近五十位政務首長及上百位幕僚綁在議場呆坐,讓全國行政部門幾近停擺。以上屆 立委為例,立委動輒因為核四、食安、服貿等大小事件杯葛議事,官員往往枯坐整個會期。根據大法官三四二號解釋,立法院要自主或「自殘」,別人無法過問;但 是,如果心存國家社稷,就不該在自殘時也殘害國家機器的運作。立法院大可在委員未達開會共識前將官員請回,並要求在接到議長通知半小時內返抵議場。這樣的 合理改革,立法院該不該做?朝野黨團該不該支持?

其三,是立委與官員之間的彼此尊重。立法委員雖然有質詢權、預算權、監督權,但這些都是 人民賦予的代理權,並不表示立委與官員在人格上、禮貌上具有不對等關係。男性官員進入國會,都是「正式服裝」,包括西裝領帶皮鞋;而立委甚至不同意官員為 了節約能源卸下西裝外套備詢。反觀我們的立委,又是什麼穿著呢?球鞋、牛仔褲、套頭衫、高球夾克等,全部隨興。如果拿段宜康、劉建國等立委的穿著與英美日 法等國的議員相比,大家都會同意:立法院裡的服裝準則(dress code)是極端不對等,其背後代表著人格和禮儀的不對等。

立委的態 度、禮儀和國會運作效率之所以一樣重要,主要是著眼於「為官環境」。且看立法院長年以來的氛圍,充滿對官員的鄙夷與羞辱,久而久之則「來者不善、善者不 來」,有骨氣、有尊嚴的人根本不願意入閣,以免在立法院受到無理的羞辱。其結果,當然造成行政部門的反淘汰,執政品質弱化。而行政部門的孱弱表現,又使得 立委更看不起官員,於是咆哮責罵拍桌,更惡化了為官環境。如此惡性循環,絕對是當前台灣政治敗壞的主要原因之一。蔡英文要談新政治,究其根本,必須要求民 進黨立委問政的態度、禮儀、談吐徹底改變。


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