Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Last-minute laws, long regrets

As usual, the last day of the legislative session saw many bills being approved at the last minute -- among them the Organic Standard Law of the Central Government Agencies (中央行政機關組織基準法). Besides reducing the number of departments under the Executive Yuan, this law contains a controversial provision under which the Legislative Yuan -- where the pan-blue opposition currently holds a majority of seats -- gains the power to approve the premier's nomination of the heads of the five independent agencies under the Executive Yuan.

Although it had been a campaign platform and the intention of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to downsize and simplify the government's structure to improve efficiency, it is still ironic to see the pan-blue opposition being so unusually cooperative and enthusiastic about the downsizing, since no such cooperation was apparently available when it came to downsizing the Legislative Yuan. Despite increasing pressure to reduce the number of seats in the Legislative Yuan both before and after the presidential election, the opposition and the ruling camps remain at an impasse over this proposal.

In view of the way that the pan-blues have been harassing the Chen administration whenever the chance arises, it is hard to not suspect that they have been cooperative in the downsizing because they saw this as a way to reduce or confine the executive branch's power. This view is confirmed when one takes into consideration how they managed to slip into the draft the provision that requires legislative approval for appointment of the five independent agencies' heads.

Giving such a power to the Legislative Yuan presents several problems. First, the Constitution explicitly gives the president the power to appoint the premier without the approval of the Legislative Yuan. The intention is obviously for the legislature to keep its hands off of nominations and appointments of Executive Yuan personnel. Under the circumstances, it just doesn't make sense that the appointment of the heads of any departments under the Executive Yuan, regardless of whether they are independent agencies, would require legislative approval.

Moreover, this is not a mere issue of unduly enlarging legislative power, but also an issue of a possible violation of the Constitution. Perhaps the pan-blue opposition dislikes the current checks and balances of power between the various government branches -- in particular, between the Legislative Yuan and the Executive Yuan. Yet until a consensus is reached through public debate with respect to the precise form of government that Taiwan should have -- for example, a pure presidential, Cabinet or other type of system -- it is irresponsible to disturb the current system in such piecemeal fashion. Any changes of this fundamental nature concerning governmental powers should be reserved for the comprehensive constitution re-engineering project proposed by Chen.

Quite obviously, the fact that the pan-blues currently enjoy a legislative majority and their continued refusal to accept the outcome of the presidential election -- casting the blame in part on the Central Election Commission -- had been what prompted them to push through a bill containing such a provision.

It is irresponsible for any political party or lawmaker to support any bill for reasons such as these. In enacting any law, they should be thinking about the long-term impact it could have on the government or the nation as a whole.

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