Tue, Dec 07, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Enough with this horror movie

Successful films often fuel sequels, giving audiences the opportunity to perpetuate the satisfying illusion created in the original. In Taiwan, the presidential election and its aftermath became a real-life thriller -- but the captive public has been unable to walk out on it ever since. The tension associated with this Saturday's sequel, not unlike Speed 2: Cruise Control, is a creation that has been forced on the public, with most only wanting an end to disruption and a return to normality. As part of the new script, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) has announced that if the pan-blue camp wins a majority in the legislature, it will seek to form government, a clear indication that yet another sequel is in the works.

According to Article Two and Article Three of the Additional Articles of the Constitution, the premier is appointed by the president and does not require the approval of the legislature. Although the premier is responsible to the legislature, his position as a presidential appointee is in no way related to who holds a majority in the legislature. These articles were added to the Constitution to allow Lien to serve as vice president and premier concurrently under former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), so Lien should be very clear about the fact that Taiwan does not operate under a Cabinet system in which the majority party has the right to form government.

Although the presidential appointment of the premier is not affected by who has a legislative majority, the premier's ability to maintain his position is. Lien's suggestion that the pan-blue camp will be able to form government if it wins a majority can therefore take place, but only as a result of vicious political fighting. The scenario would be as follows: The president appoints a premier from a minority party. The administration of the premier is boycotted by the majority party, which passes a vote of no confidence, forcing the president to dissolve the legislature and call for new elections. The opposition keeps its majority, forcing the president to bow to political realities and appoint a candidate that they can accept.

Although the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential elections in 2000 and this year, the opposition has maintained a majority in the legislature and has constrained the government on many fronts. So far, the opposition has retained a sense of proportion, and while opposing most legislation and budget measures, has not engaged in a "scorched earth" policy of initiating a vote of no confidence, which would precipitate a political crisis. Lien's announcement makes it clear that the opposition will raise the level of its resistance if it wins a majority this time, going so far as to challenge the right of the president to appoint the premier. This will be a political battle with incalculably high political and social costs that could wear on indefinitely.

If Taiwan were a normal democratic country, the actions of political parties taken in accordance with the Constitution and their relative levels of strength would be considered acceptable. But Taiwan faces threats and obstruction from China on all fronts, and it cannot sustain another period in which it fails to advance, or slips backward, because of domestic political factors. The political scene cannot afford to become an endless series of Friday the 13th sequels, with the public serving as teen fodder for a deranged and slowly decomposing villain.

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