Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Topple the Cabinet? Bring it on

Ever since undermining Taiwan's democracy became the "in" thing, members of opposition parties have been saying that it is time to topple the Cabinet.

The Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (NPSU) -- which in actuality is none of those things -- has even called on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to formally endorse a campaign to oust the Cabinet.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) have thus far refused to do so. Although they justified their decision in terms that were politically acceptable, it is clear that what they meant was: "Are you crazy?"

If the Legislative Yuan forces the Cabinet out, then the president has the authority to dissolve the legislature. Even in normal times, this would be an act of significant political destabilization. How the electorate would react to such shenanigans is unclear, and there aren't too many professional politicians who are willing to risk their careers without clear benefit.

To make matters worse, these are not normal times in Taiwan, electorally speaking.

The country is in the midst of a substantial set of reforms whose effect on the political landscape will be profound. In the next legislative election -- whether held next year as scheduled, or very soon if the Cabinet is toppled now -- the number of legislative seats will be reduced from 226 to 113. Also, the "single member, two vote" system to be adopted increases competition for these seats.

As with all reform, a host of unforeseen issues can arise. But there are two things that are obvious: Half of all lawmakers are going to be out on the street (or left doing the talkshow circuit), and the ability of smaller parties such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the People First Party, the New Party and the NPSU to curry electoral favor will be greatly diminished.

It isn't clear if the NPSU lawmakers calling for the Cabinet's dismissal realize that such an act would almost certainly mean their political demise. Perhaps we are witnessing an act of attempted political suicide -- who knows?

Since the NPSU is unlikely to get the support of the KMT at this time, perhaps it should be looking elsewhere. Perhaps it should ask the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to back its proposal -- after all, the group tells us it is "non-partisan" in its very name. And who else really has something to gain from a new legislature?

This proposal may sound absurd, but everything in Taiwanese politics is absurd at present. It could be very beneficial for the DPP to oust its own Cabinet, have the president dissolve the legislature and call a new legislative election under the new system.

Given the uncertainties involved, the pan-greens might even be able to win a majority of the seats. The DPP traditionally has been the largest party in the Legislative Yuan, and the near-even split of the current legislature means that, once the smaller parties are forced off the scene by sheer weight of numbers, the DPP may well come out on top.

That is the real reason you won't see Ma or Wang deciding to back the NPSU's proposal any time soon.

But it also makes one wonder why the DPP hasn't tried it yet. It isn't as if things can get much worse for the party. When your enemies are all around you and there is no clear escape, you only have two choices.

Pull out the white flag and surrender, or fix bayonets and attack.

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