Last Friday, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) locked horns in a debate organized by the alumni association of their alma mater, Harvard University. Ma proved pretty ineffectual in the debate in the face of Lu's arguments, and the vice president maintained the upper hand throughout. It wasn't until I read Ma's words in the China Times and the United Daily News that I realized how much he was struggling to come up with a reasoned argument, and how inarticulate and unprepared he was. In other words, faced with the vice-president's questions, Ma revealed his true colors.
Talking to the press afterwards, Ma said he believed the reason that the vice president had been well prepared for the debate was that she was soon to take up the reins of the Democratic Progressive Party as its acting chairperson, adding that this was the reason he agreed to participate in this event. This is one of Ma's methods: striking a blow despite having clearly been beaten, suggesting that his opponent betrayed a lack of sportsmanship and that he himself exhibited honor in defeat.
What, really, can the position of chairperson of a political party do for Lu that her status as vice president of the nation cannot? How can being party chairperson compare with the elevated status of vice president? I fear that this might be a case of Ma, himself a party chairman, overblowing his own importance.
But these are just minor points and merely serve to demonstrate Ma's lack of sincerity or substance. However, in this debate, Ma also demonstrated a rather disturbing lack of awareness of constitutional government.
Lu challenged Ma over the presidential nominations for the Control Yuan, pointing out that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had, according to the Constitution, presented the list of nominations to the Legislative Yuan for approval last February. She added that whilst the legislature could express its dissatisfaction with individual names on the list, it could not refuse to review the whole list. This was a serious point which, of course, required the respondent to be sufficiently prepared. Ma, whose position was basically unconstitutional, would always have difficulty responding, but he still should not have tried to evade the issue.
He replied that of the five branches of government, the Judicial Yuan, the Examination Yuan and the Control Yuan should all be run by individuals with expertise and a developed sense of justice, and not by those who sympathize with any one party. Under the current nomination system, he went on, the government can include individuals not known for their moderate politics. The setting of examination questions such as "What are the qualities of a lawyer and national leader?" he said, were a case in point. He finished with a call to increase the ceiling for approval of the Control Yuan nominations to two-thirds. Heavens above, what was he talking about?
Firstly, the judicial, examination and control branches of the government cover different areas. Article 80 of the Constitution says that "Judges shall be impartial" and Article 88 states that "Members of the Examination Yuan shall be non-partisan." Party affiliation is not the issue at all, but rather how these officials carry out their duties. Further, Control Yuan members are a product of the elections and the principle of party conformity coming before individual differences applies here just as it does with the legislature. This is different from the judicial and examination branches, to which it cannot be compared.