Recent rumors have it that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had expressed an interest in meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to discuss a Cabinet reshuffle. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) was said to have passed on a message in this regard to Ma. Acting Presidential Office Secretary-General Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) has also allegedly confirmed the incident.
It is likely that Chen has been forced to consider discussing a Cabinet reshuffle with Ma, as this could be the only way of dealing with a legislature dominated by the pan-blue camp. However, Ma insists on a procedure in which the two would first discuss government systems and policy before broaching the matter of appointments. If Chen gives the pan-blue camp the go-ahead to form a new Cabinet, they will be able to direct the government in every aspect, leading to a virtual dissolution of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's authority, who might just as well just close up shop.
Faced with a legislature dominated by the pan-blues, Chen's administration has suffered repeated boycotts, against which it has little recourse. Therefore, it's not hard to understand why Chen would make the desperate move of offering to meet with Ma and discuss the Cabinet reshuffle -- he needs to seek political reconciliation and mitigate political confrontation as a way of breaking the deadlock between the pan-blues and pan-greens.
Nevertheless, while it may be understandable, such a move is tantamount to political suicide.
Although it is a matter of fierce debate whether Taiwan's system of government is a presidential system, a Cabinet system or a semi-presidential system, one thing that is clear is that under Article Three of the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China, the right to appoint the premier is vested in the president. There is no constitutional basis for the party with a legislative majority to form the Cabinet.
To allow the majority party to do so may be a matter of political expediency, or the consequence of inter-party confrontation, but it is certainly not something that derives from established procedures under the current Constitution. In other words, no matter whether it is a minority government or a majority government, the right to form a Cabinet should rest with the president. So when Ma demands that in any meeting with Chen regarding the formation of a new Cabinet, the first issue should be to discuss government systems, it is hard to know where he is coming from.
In insisting on a discussion of government policies, Ma is demanding that the DPP accept KMT policies as a prerequisite for forming a Cabinet. If Chen accepts such terms, he will be breaking campaign promises he made to the voters, for the party that won the election would simply be handing power to the party that lost. The two camps have very different viewpoints, particularly in terms of cross-strait policy. The pan-green camp champions localization, while the pan-blue camp sees unification as its ultimate goal. If Chen were to invite the pan-blues to form a Cabinet, Taiwan's future path would inevitably be reversed. Was this the intention of the pro-localization voters who entrusted the nation to him? In his New Year speech, Chen condemned Ma for explicitly stating that "unification" was his party's ultimate goal. How can he have changed his tune in such a short space of time?