Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: A legislature consumed by spite

After spending the past few weeks preoccupied with a campaign to recall President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) that was a complete waste of time and resources, the Legislative Yuan finally decided to get down and do some real work.

On Friday, the last day of the special legislative session and the last chance for legislators to prove that they can do such work, lawmakers passed an amendment to the Statute Governing Preferential Treatment for Retired Presidents and Vice Presidents (卸任總統副總統禮遇條例), as a result of which the benefits and subsidies provided by the government to retired presidents and vice presidents were significantly reduced.

After the amendment was unanimously approved, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) boasted that the amendment was an accomplishment because it did not target anyone in particular. Perhaps the package of subsidies and benefits given to former heads of state should have been subjected to legislative review more frequently. However, it would be hard for anyone in his or her right mind to believe that this amendment was not vindictive or personal in nature.

Who can forget the emotional plea by pan-blue politicians over the past few weeks demanding Chen's recall because they resented "having to support Chen for the rest of his life"? That piece of vitriol obviously referred to the life-long monthly benefits and subsidies extended to former heads of state -- though now reduced -- that will be made available to Chen after he steps down. The immediate passage of the amendment after efforts to recall Chen failed was obviously a personal attack. The other deliberate target was former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and Friday's initiative was merely the carrying out of threats that the pan-blues have made numerous times against Lee whenever he has said or done anything they dislike.

Friday's move should make the pan-blues happy and encourage them to take a break, even for just a short time, from the highly confrontational recall campaign. After all, they must be given something because it is obvious they are not going to be left empty-handed. This calculation was surely on the minds of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) when they voted for the amendment.

Another reason for the DPP and the TSU's support was to distance themselves from Chen, who is now a lame-duck president and a highly tarnished political figure with little credibility.

Still, it is saddening to see that the legislative process can be so easily manipulated by factors that are so clearly personal, self-serving, irrational and underhanded. Perhaps the truly troublesome thing about Friday's legislative adventure was not so much the fact that benefits were slashed, but that the original allocations were indeed excessive and needed to be adjusted.

None of the pan-blue lawmakers seem to have considered that the reduced benefits and subsidies may one day be equally applicable to a pan-blue president. After all, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is considered a strong presidential candidate for 2008.

Perhaps this is the biggest problem with Taiwan's politicians: No one seems to consider the interests of the nation as a whole. Ultimately, they will leave a political system to future generations that bears this stamp.

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