Sat, Jan 26, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Is it the KMT v the Constitution?

Those who think that handing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) a two-thirds legislative majority (or a three-quarters majority if minor parties and independents come on board) is going to make the more aggressive members of the KMT more respectful of democratic processes and their underlying principles are in for a real shock.

This criticism may appear partisan, but it is not. Nor is it a gratuitous swipe at KMT leaders who have promised to treat the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) legislative minority with respect, which would be a welcome development.

Only weeks after the legislative elections, a number of KMT figures have dropped hints that the dramatic increase in their legislative presence will be used to stake a claim on powers that belong to the executive -- and even the average voter.

The latest of these signals comes from KMT caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春), who backs a "binding resolution" that would attempt to compel the government to use the name "Republic of China" in its bid to "return" to the UN.

Most people refused to take part in the referendums this month, and there is a real risk that ennui and partisan considerations will kill the UN referendums when they are held. Hence the maneuvering over achieving a result on the UN bid.

But referendum topics are not of concern here. What is chilling is Kuo's idea that a legislative resolution would somehow override the result of a referendum: The "legislature represents the latest will of the people," as she put it, as if the legislature were the only manifestation of public will in this country.

Kuo did not seem to appreciate that referendums take place with constitutional authority and that the legislature would precipitate a constitutional crisis if it attempted to obstruct the process of ordinary people to petition for a referendum, regardless of its political party-sponsor.

The issue is protecting the Constitution from predators, regardless of their office. The Constitution is a charter that belongs to the citizenry, not cliques of politicians, though this simple fact is clearly not respected by a large number of legislators.

Of late, KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has worked in a similar way: To beat the enemy, everything connected to it -- no matter how small, fragile or non-partisan -- is fair game.

But Ma is running for the same office whose fundamental authority he has eroded by failing -- in his time as party chairman -- to keep legislators such as Kuo in check when they overstepped the lines between self, party and national interest.

If Ma supports the dismantling of presidential powers, the diminishing of the public's referendum powers and the creation of a parliamentary system in which a Cabinet is made up of legislators, then he should say so.

But he has not said so. The next big thing in Taiwanese politics -- should Ma win the election -- will therefore be watching him defend the viability of the presidency as his newly empowered legislative colleagues encroach upon the powers of the executive, and by extension the Constitution.

It is an untenable position, yet any retaliation will not come from the DPP, which is weak and poorly organized. Instead, the fallout will take the form of bickering within the KMT machine; ongoing instability in executive-legislative relations; and public servants defending their fragile professionalism as legislators bury their snouts deeper into the trough.

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