Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Legislature casts aside separation of powers

By Lee Chun-yi 李俊俋

In recent years, the legislature has repeatedly used its power to approve personnel matters as a means to expand its own powers as it sees fit. This has resulted in a Legislative Yuan with so much power it is seriously harming the checks and balances laid down in the Constitution.

The Council of Grand Justices last year said in constitutional interpretation No. 613 on the National Communications Commission (NCC): "Under the principle of separation of powers, the Legislative Yuan, which exercises the legislative power ... However, there are still some limits on such checks and balances. For instance, there should be no violation of an unambiguous constitutional provision, nor should there be any substantial deprivation of the power to decide on personnel affairs or direct takeover of such power."

In interpretation No. 632, published on Aug. 15, the grand justices said: "If the Legislative Yuan remains passive and does not exercise its power of approval, the Control Yuan will be unable to exercise its powers or manifest its functions and integration of the national constitutional system will be undermined. This cannot be allowed by the Constitution."

Twice in a row, the grand justices have called the legislature's use of the power of approval for personnel unconstitutional.

The concept of vesting the power of approving personnel in the legislature began with the writing of the US Constitution. The main purpose of this design was to create a sufficient popular foundation for nominees and institutions within constitutionally regulated bodies that cannot otherwise exercise their powers based directly on public opinion.

This is intended to prevent government leaders from abusing their powers and to implement the fundamental democratic principle of checks and balances.

However, since the transition of power in 2000, the pan-blue camp has time and again used its legislative majority to block or direct the Cabinet, and has also tried to interfere with the government's personnel matters.

The pan-blue camp has employed several methods to do this, including using the review procedure to block the president's personnel appointments, keeping them off the agenda of the Procedure Committee, thus blocking the appointments from being reviewed. One example is the Control Yuan, which is still without members, rendering one of the branches of government completely useless.

A second method has involved the legislature interfering with the appointment process by making laws intended to give it even broader and more direct influence on government appointments. An example is the Organic Law of the National Communications Commission (國家傳播委員會組織法), passed in 2005.

This law stipulates that the legislature shall select NCC candidates, with the number of candidates from each party depending on that party's number of seats in the legislature.

The pan-blue camp has twisted the purpose of the legislature's power of approval in personnel matters, ignoring the spirit of the Constitution.

For two-and-a-half-years, the pan-blue boycotts have meant that the legislature has repeatedly postponed the approval of the Control Yuan nominations, preventing it from functioning.

There is little doubt that the legislature is the source of Taiwan's problems upholding the constitutional framework.

The only effective solution is to write a new constitution that is better suited to today's political scene and circumstances and put an end to the controversy in the central government.

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