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KMT too late for legislative reform

KMT too late for legislative reform

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and opposition Democratic Progressive Party top lawmaker Ker Chien-ming have long been presented as the best of friends, despite their belonging to different and often sharply opposed political parties.
Their friendship even became the focus for one of Taiwan’s biggest political disputes in recent memory when President Ma Ying-jeou and Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming accused Wang of having phoned prosecutors to persuade them not to file an appeal against a not-guilty verdict for Ker. The allegations made in September 2013 deteriorated into a full-scale power struggle before being concluded earlier this year, though they mostly affected the Kuomintang and not Ker personally.
While both sides have confirmed they are still friends, the mounting election fever in the run-up to the January 16 presidential and legislative elections has exerted pressure.
The personal reason behind a sudden turn for the worse in the relationship might be that both men might be vying for the same job. Wang will try to extend his 16-year hold on the position of legislative speaker, while Ker could be top of the list of the people looking to replace him. The biggest factor is of course which will determine the outcome is which side of the political spectrum wins a majority at the 113-seat assembly.
The KMT and its allies have never lost control over the Legislative Yuan, but opinion polls and commentators suggest that the opposition might change all that for the first time next January.
Wang is certain of re-election as legislator because he features at the top of the KMT’s list of at-large candidates, while Ker is running for the seat in a district in Hsinchu City against candidates from the KMT and the New Power Party.
In an interview with the Chinese-language weekly magazine The Journalist, Wang said that running for the Legislative Yuan and for his position of speaker would be the final struggle of his political career.
In the same interview, he also emphasized that his main aim was to leave a legacy behind which would include reinforcing the right of the Legislature to probe government policies and behavior.
Positive as that might sound, Ker’s reaction to that statement was even more credible, as he accused Wang of playing politics with the issue. With presidential and legislative elections scheduled for January 16, 40 days before the vote is hardly the time to begin discussing far-reaching reforms which might overturn present practices and structures.
With 16 years as the speaker under his belt, legislators and political observers might indeed wonder why Wang is only becoming enthusiastic for the subject of legislative reform just about a month and a half before an election which the KMT looks bound to lose.
Ker rightly pointed out that for two decades, the DPP has been the major force in pushing for reforms while the KMT has tried to stall them. The opposition caucus leader said the last few weeks of the existing Legislative Yuan was not the time to be pushing for such major reforms.
There is no doubt that the public has been deeply dissatisfied with the performance of the Legislative Yuan for a long time, but waiting until the final weeks of a Legislature which is bound to be thoroughly reshaped at the next election to push through reforms looks far too motivated by electoral gain.
As Ker pointed out, reforms of such reach and magnitude should be well prepared, and not just pushed out in front of the public at short notice. The KMT has been in power for the last seven years at least, so it has had more than plenty of time to push through the necessary reforms, yet it has chosen not to do so.
Trying to present a reformist image to the public now is unlikely to fool anybody. On the contrary, it will trigger allegations of procrastination and hypocrisy. If the Legislative Yuan needs to be reformed, and most people agree it does, why wait 16 years, or seven years, before taking action, almost when it is too late?
Whatever Wang’s proposals and the wide agreement on the need for reform, there is hardly any consensus on what exactly will increase the efficiency of the body. In the past, the formula for a better Legislative Yuan was seen as altering its size and its election system.
After the ending of martial law in 1987, it was more than logical that the then-vast majority of lawmakers supposedly elected in Mainland China and still representing those areas would be sent into retirement. However, in the following years, the size was cut down, then enlarged again before being cut by half again.
In addition, the system where a ream of top vote-getters in each election district, some times as many as nine or more, was elected, was converted to a first-past-the-post system, where one winner takes the only seat available in the district. While the new method was also expected to increase efficiency, in the end it failed to do so, with an over-representation of the ruling camp as a result. In the first legislative election following the introduction of the system, all eight seats in the capital Taipei were taken by the KMT, with only one DPP candidate winning in 2012.
The question remains which electoral system would deliver the best reflection of public opinion as well as further efficiency the most at the full assembly.
KMT Chairman Eric Liluan Chu has only promised that if elected president, he would allow lawmakers to vote on his choice of premier. The method has been tried before and discarded, so the question is again why Chu came up with this issue just before the new Legislative Yuan is to be elected.
There is also the question of how interested the public at large is in the issue of legislative reform. Voters are more likely to be concerned about electing an efficient government which listens to the public and reinvigorates the economy, while redressing the wrongs of the past years such as the widening gap between rich and poor and the over-reliance on China. If the reform of the Legislative Yuan can contribute to those changes, the public will welcome any proposals.
As the new representatives of public opinion, the new majority at the Legislative Yuan and the new president to be sworn in on May 20 should have the right to decide which changes are necessary.


Updated : 2021-09-23 13:10 GMT+08:00