Sat, Jan 13, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Power plant issue far from over

The Council of Grand Justices has said that it will announce its ruling on the constitutionality of halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant on Monday. Although the ruling is not expected to explicitly state whether scrapping the plant was constitutional, it is, however, expected to state directly that, on major events, the Executive Yuan must report to and obtain consent from the Legislative Yuan. On the surface, the ball will roll back into the court of the Legislative Yuan. However, the ruling will establish a constitutionally mandated framework for executive-legislative interplays. The hope of the Grand Justices is to resolve the current political standoff through interactions of goodwill.

What the opposition and ruling parties wish to see is a direct ruling on the issue of constitutionality, so it can be used as a bargaining chip and basis for a no-confidence vote. However, to the justices, their ruling must be capable of ensuring constitutional and political order, so that similar disputes will not be repeated.

The ruling is to define "major events," as well as point out that the implementation of the construction project meets this definition. It will also point out that the Executive Yuan must first report to the Legislative Yuan and obtain the latter's consent on such major events. The ruling is very clear, although it deliberately avoids provocative words such as "unconstitutional." The ruling should have the Executive Yuan make up for the procedural step previously skipped, that is, report to the Legislative Yuan, and leave the final discretion to the legislature, so that the people can discuss an issue that concerns their livelihood and properties -- this is an outcome that saves face for the Executive Yuan, while allowing the Legislative Yuan to make the final call.

The problem is that the DPP has a legislative minority. In view of the strong majority enjoyed by the opposition alliance, it is impossible for the Executive Yuan to stop implementing the budget allocated for the power plant. Responsibility for the loss suffered by Taipower due to the construction halt and the economic decline, as well as the related political and executive accountability must be determined by the Control Yuan and the Legislative Yuan. The ruling in essence emphasizes that major events must be decided only after popular discussions. Even when the Executive Yuan has decided to unilaterally cease implementation, it must make up for the procedural step skipped and leave the issue open for public scrutiny. This is how the present case and all other similar disputes in the future are to be handled.

The ruling won't resolve all the disputes. Both sides will find new battle grounds. The opposition can overturn the Executive Yuan's decision to halt construction, as well as demand that the premier step down along with the minister of economic affairs. The ruling party could delay implementation of the budget, so that the premier would not have to resign. They may even invite opposition party lawmakers to join a new Cabinet. As long as the stage is still around, the show is not over yet. We call on both sides to accept the will of the people and end the dispute as soon as possible.

Behind the current dispute is a deadlock resulting from a minority government. The hot potato tossed into the hands of the Grand Justices is beyond resolution by them. Must the premier step down after he reports to the legislature? This is an issue requiring goodwill between the opposition and the ruling party. The Grand Justices have established the legal and democratic basis for executive-legislative interplay. Actual political maneuvering requires wisdom by all sides.

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