Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: It is time for the legislature to act

Anyone who felt hopeful in recent weeks that for once the Legislative Yuan would get its act together by passing some highly important bills before the presidential election -- most notably the political donations bill and the bill to reduce the number of seats in the Legislative Yuan by half -- was utterly disappointed last week.

With the breakdown of negotiations between the legislative caucuses, it isn't good enough for the pan-blue and pan-green caucuses to distract people's attention by focusing on which side is standing in the way of reform.

Originally the caucuses had agreed that on March 12 the legislature would review and pass some long-overdue bills, with the political donations bill at the top of the list. But when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucuses demanded that a bill to reduce the number of seats in the legislature be reviewed that day as well -- a proposal which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) rejected -- negotiations broke down.

Anyone who has been following the presidential campaign knows that passing bills on political donations and on reducing the number of seats in the legislature has become an important issue in the campaign, and that both presidential candidates have given their support to the bills.

With respect to reducing legislative seats, this initiative was a plank in the campaign platform of almost all the parties in the last legislative election. Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that passing such a bill is supported by an overwhelming majority of the public.

It isn't hard to understand why people support the bill -- just look at the pathetic performance of the Legislative Yuan, where lawmakers resort to physical violence against each other and verbal violence not only against each other but also against government officials at interpellation sessions.

The inability -- or refusal -- of the legislature to pass important bills year after year shows that in addition to being a rude body, it is also an incompetent one.

In response to the Legislative Yuan's inaction on the bill to cut the number of seats in the legislature, former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) on March 1 began a 10-day sit-in and fast in front of the Legislative Yuan. President Chen Shui-bian dropped by to show support (陳水扁), as did Premier Yu Shyi-kun and TSU Chairman Huang Chu-wen (黃主文), among others. Earlier, when Lin had earlier visited KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), Lien had also indicated that he supported the bill's passage.

Under the circumstances, it is surprising that the KMT and PFP legislative caucuses have refused to include the bill on the reduction of legislative seats among the bills to be reviewed and passed before the presidential election. This refusal reinforces the impression that the KMT-PFP alliance is standing in the way of much-needed reforms -- which cannot be good for Lien's presidential campaign.

No less important is the bill on political donations. The ongoing controversy surrounding former Tuntex Group chairman Chen Yu-hao's (陳由豪) past political donations to both the pan-green and pan-blue camps highlights a dire need for a regulatory framework on political donations, so that the line between legal and illegal donations is clear. For this reason, Chen has called for passage of the political donations bill before the presidential election.

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