After the nine-day break for the Lunar New Year last month, everyone seems to have forgotten all the foolishness that took place in the legislature before the holiday.
During the last session, not only did legislators set a new low for the number of laws passed -- just 39, not counting the proposals to recall President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) -- but even more absurdly, they failed to pass the government budget. The public was hoping that ruling and opposition legislators would be able to act conscientiously and convene an extraordinary session to complete the budget review, but they couldn't even agree on calling a session at all.
After the Lunar New Year, the legislature's Procedure Committee again prioritized the controversial amendment to the Organic Law of the Central Election Commission (中選會組織法), which had led to the standoff in the previous session, ahead of budget deliberations. It appears that the same scenario is destined to play out again in another uproarious and violent legislative session.
Continuing down this path will make a mockery of the constitutional rules governing when the budget must be discussed and finalized. The legislature, which thinks nothing of violating the Constitution in this way, will go down in the nation's democratic history as a true shame. No wonder society's trust in the legislature has fallen so low that the people expect less of legislators than from any other profession.
The legislature is also incapable of rationally negotiating the resolution to the deadlock. Both the opposition and ruling parties ignore public opinion, choosing instead to maintain a firm grip on their party's interests and resorting to barbaric brawling.
The problem is that state affairs should not remain idle even for a single day. While people in other industries and professions go back to work after the holiday and continue to contribute to the gross national product, legislators are strapping on their boxing gloves and preparing to go at it again.
Exactly whose interests does such a legislature represent? Is it necessary for the public's tax dollars to be wastefully thrown about like this?
If legislators don't see the need to debate laws seriously and earnestly, perhaps all Taiwanese should demand that, beginning with this legislative session, they should provide their service free of charge, or at least have their salaries halved to conform to the principles of fairness and justice. Why should the Taiwanese have to spend NT$2.1 billion (US$63.8 million) per session to give more than 200 legislators a free ride?
The masses are unwilling to see the nation's economic conditions and public livelihoods dragged down by legislative strife. A democratic society should pool its wisdom to oversee its government, while also using this collective intelligence to push forward social reform and innovation.
But the political parties are instead demonstrating an irrational, anti-democratic attitude by insisting on battling each other to death.
With the start of a new year, we wish each other health and prosperity. I wonder if legislators could also lay down their arms and instead truly consider public interests.
I wonder if they can each soften their stance and resolve their difficulties over the long-delayed budget, or if Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has the fortitude to undo the knots that hold back progress. If he can, I believe it would greatly benefit his presidential ambitions.