Sat, Jan 15, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Nation can't afford domestic split

By Hawang Shiow-duan 黃秀端

In a recent opinion poll released by the Taiwan Thinktank, more than 60 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the performance of the legislature. Up to 90 percent argued that legislators should put policy at the top of the political agenda and cease acting from partisan motives. And 88 percent said that legislators need to be "supervised." Based on the results of the survey, we can see that the public wants a legislature which can focus on policy debate and care about people's livelihoods instead of engaging in finger-pointing and partisan disputes.

The legislative elections were last month and legislators-elect have not even been sworn in, yet the public has begun to worry that, with the balance of power pretty much the same, the new legislature will simply repeat the chaos of the previous one. While the People First Party (PFP) only obtained 34 seats, 12 seats shy of the number it acquired in the previous legislative elections, neither the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nor the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) can control the legislature without PFP assistance. Thus, the PFP will be playing a crucial role.

If the KMT is able to maintain its alliance with the PFP in the legislature, they will have 113 seats, but if the PFP joins up with the DPP, they will have 123 seats.

Obviously the nation needs the PFP to play a stabilizing role at this juncture. The PFP can either choose to cooperate with the KMT in its confrontation with the DPP or it can collaborate with the DPP on legislation beneficial to people's livelihoods and national development.

More specifically, the PFP may cover for the KMT's stolen party assets, or else work with the DPP to establish equitable principles of competition. The public is already fed up with confrontations fueled by partisanship. Therefore, decisions made at this crucial moment will have significant consequences for the future.

KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) has urged President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to nominate Deputy Legislative Speaker Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤) as premier. Not long after that, Lien demanded that PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) be appointed as premier.

But let us not forget the fact that the DPP seized 89 seats at these legislative elections, the KMT 79, the PFP 34 and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) 12.

Now, when a government operates under a Cabinet system, the right to form a new Cabinet belongs to the largest party in the legislature, not to the second-largest party. But Taiwan does not have a Cabinet system, and according to the Constitution, the president can appoint the premier without the consent of the Legislative Yuan. Therefore, Chen has the initiative. But faced with this new legislature, he will still need to communicate and negotiate with opposition parties. According to the "winning minimum coalition" theory in politics, because the TSU failed to win enough seats, the PFP has become the party with which the DPP will most likely form an alliance.

There are many examples of coalition governments in other countries. A coalition involves a distribution of ministerial posts and an agreement on policy. Yet some parties choose not to join a coalition Cabinet out of electoral concerns or because they believe they can still exercise influence outside of it. They would rather form an alliance with the ruling party, and might even sign a pact for cooperating on certain issues.

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