Thu, Mar 07, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Complete political neutrality is a myth

By Wang Chien-chuang 王健壯

Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) angered many DPP legislators by voting against the Cabinet-proposed motion to veto amendments to the Law Governing the Allocation of Gov-ernment Revenues and Expen-ditures (財政收支劃分法). They therefore plan to propose a motion, demanding that Wang give up his KMT vice chairmanship in order to maintain the neutrality of the legislature.

This demand that politicians in a rival political party uphold legislative and administrative neutrality is self-righteous in the extreme.

If the DPP's logic in demanding that Wang quit his job as KMT vice chairman is correct, the Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲), Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) should all quit their jobs as DPP chairmen and Central Standing Committee mem-bers for the sake of administrative neutrality. Otherwise, the ruling party's differing standards amount to nothing more than political hypocrisy.

In fact, if it is correct to say that democratic politics means party politics, legislative and administrative neutrality are not neutral at all. Hence, "party factors" -- including the ideology and interests of a party -- are certainly factors in both legislative and administrative operations. This is the practice, not just the theory, of party politics.

Moreover, the head of the legislature usually plays multiple roles, serving simultaneously as a representative of his constituents, as chairman and highest administrator of the legislature and as a party representative. Whoever is elected speaker must also play the role of an important party leader. It is absolutely impossible for the speaker to make a clean break with his or her party.

A legislative speaker's role as a party leader comes to the fore especially when legislative and administrative power are controlled by different parties. When US President Bill Clinton was in office, then speaker of the House Newt Gingrich used the Congress as a revolutionary base from which the Republicans would regain their lost territory. He pursued Republican interests exclusively and always put his role as a party leader before that of House speaker.

Today, Wang is the most powerful KMT politician to have been elected by the people. He was reelected as a legislator and as speaker after being nominated by the KMT. His role as a party leader inside the Legislative Yuan would naturally continue to develop even if he was not a vice chairman of the KMT. It is ridiculous for the DPP to question Wang's neutrality due to his support for the KMT's opposition to the veto, or to demand that a clear line be drawn between the speaker and his party.

The easiest, indeed, the only way to examine whether a legislative speaker is neutral is to examine his or her words and deeds inside the legislature. The speaker is neutral if he or she follows legislative regulations; the speaker is partial if he or she does not.

As for Wang's personal voting preferences, remarks made outside the legislature, or even opinions given during inter-party negotiations -- should not be taken as determinants of his neutrality. For DPP legislators to treat them as such is simply to make trouble out of nothing.

The late Chinese philosopher and essayist Hu Shih (胡適) once described democratic politics as "kindergarten politics," saying that it was neither very complicated nor very profound. If the DPP legislators had even a basic understanding of the roles of the legislative speaker, they would know that their demand that Wang quit his vice chairmanship to maintain the legislature's neutrality in fact shows that they are below kindergarten level.

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