The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has never been shy about putting party interests before national interests. So when Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Thursday promised the legislature’s full cooperation on budget matters after the new administration is sworn in, it came as no revelation.
After reports emerged that the incoming Cabinet would seek to bolster its budget by around NT$100 billion (US$3.3 billion), Wang said the legislature would pass any fiscal proposals by June. That’s 10 days after president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is inaugurated, which would certainly be quick work for a legislature that has made dragging its feet an art form.
Should the public be breathing a sigh of relief?
The fattened budget is intended to fund Ma’s “i-Taiwan 12 projects” — a series of infrastructure proposals that the government, already laboring under fiscal woes, can ill afford without raising taxes.
Nevertheless, as budget matters have for years been held hostage in a fierce power struggle between the pan-blue legislature and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Cabinet, Wang’s statement was an indication that the nation can probably look forward to cooperation on pivotal issues.
The clogged veins of the legislative floor should soon be flowing healthily again and other crucial bills that had fallen victim to partisan politics may may finally be passed.
However, Ma has yet to be inaugurated, the new Cabinet has yet to be named and many proposals have yet to land on legislators’ desks.
Wang’s premature pledge of cooperation was nothing more than a sign that the rules of the game haven’t changed: party blood runs as thick as ever.
The KMT caucus has drawn on myriad untenable excuses for blocking bills, arguing, for example, that it should not pass a budget for compensating victims of the 228 Incident because the Executive Yuan had requested that the funds be placed under the authority of the Ministry of Education.
Nor was there any indication in the months leading up to the presidential election that the caucus would change its tactics any time soon — despite its vow to serve the public responsibly in light of the extra powers it gained by securing an absolute majority in January.
On the anniversary of the 228 Incident, as Ma pledged to see through a budget for compensation if elected, the KMT caucus fended off criticism of its voting record by reiterating its dubious rationale for previously sabotaging the bill.
For this reason, a victory for DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) in the presidential election would undoubtedly have meant another four years of vicious partisan wrangling, with crucial amendments left to languish.
The nation can look forward to smoother functioning government over the next four years, not because politicians are shaping up, but because a single party has secured both the executive and legislative branches. Real progress toward a mature democracy — and politicians who behave in a manner befitting democracy — will only come if the public demands it. Unfortunately, severe partisanship has very clearly served the KMT’s interests.
As it reaps the rewards, what incentive does it have to reform damaging habits?
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