Blues hold democracy in contempt - Taipei Times
Sat, Jun 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Blues hold democracy in contempt

By Mark Kennedy 高馬克

Like the more advanced liberal democracies of the West, Taiwan's is an adversarial political system, in which the very nature of an opposition party is to oppose the government.

But where Taiwan's system veers away from the liberal democratic traditions of the West is the pan-blue camp's bitter stubbornness in the role of opposition. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party's (PFP) opposition to bills proposed by President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration is founded more on a deep-seated contempt and distrust of him and his party, than on rational and well thought-out disagreement with a particular line of policies.

The turf-war like rivalry in the nation's legislature has brought it to a new low. The latest legislative session, which drew to a close on May 31, succeeded in passing an abysmally low number of bills. With just 39 bills made into law, it was the poorest performance ever -- breaking the previous record low of 53.

The opposition, with its numerical majority in the legislature, is to blame for this record. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been in power for more than five years now, and the pan-blue camp has controlled the legislature for the same amount of time. During that time, legislative sessions have brought about the passage of double, and even triple the number of bills passed in the last sitting. In the two sessions in 2003, for example, the turbulent lawmaking body passed 206 bills into law.

Even with the flurry of controversy surrounding last year's presidential election, a similarly combative legislature voted 75 bills into law. Convinced Chen's re-election was illegitimate and unfair, the pan-blue camp refused to review any bills proposed by the Cabinet in the relevant committees, and persisted in stalling them with their majority in the legislature's procedure committee. For a time after March 20 last year, KMT and PFP legislators simply sat on their hands, rejected new legislation and voted down any bill that made it to the legislative floor.

This begs the question: How could a legislature in which the majority of lawmakers are interested only in contesting the presidential election and bringing the government to a standstill be able to pass more bills than the most recent legislative session?

The simple answer is that even though they harbored a bitter hatred for their pan-green rivals, pan-blue camp legislators knew they could not simply write off the two-and-a-half months remaining in that legislative session. There were, after all, important bills to be considered -- and they would have been held responsible if the Political Donations Law (政治獻金法), the Special Statute for Increasing Investment in Public Construction (擴大公共建設投資特別條例), the Financial Restructuring Fund (金融重建基金) and the Laborers' Pension Law (勞工退休金條例) had failed to pass.

Despite the record low number of bills passed, the just-completed legislative session is not without some modest success. Lawmakers were able to temporarily set aside their hatred and pass an amendment to the Law on the National Assembly's Exercise of Power (國大職權行使法), to the dismay to of at least three DPP lawmakers, who are seeking a constitutional interpretation of the law; a long-anticipated bailout-funds bill that will inject NT$110 billion (US$3.5 billion) into the nation's debt-ridden banking sector; and next year's budget for the government's five-year, NT$500 billion public-construction package.

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