Sun, Jan 04, 2009 - Page 8 News List

New system yields same old ‘black’ legislature

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

The legislative election early last year was the first to be held using the new single-district, double ballot election system. In addition, the number of legislators was cut by half. Everyone hoped the legislators elected under the new system would be the most outstanding candidates in each constituency, and that the changes would result in a new and better legislature.

A year later, however, we have to say that we are bitterly disappointed, because legislative performance during last year’s two sessions was largely devoid of merit. It has made no substantial difference. Worse, democracy is on the retreat. Citizen Congress Watch conducted a poll to choose the one word people think best describes legislative performance over the past year. The lucky winner was “black” — an indication of public anger and dissatisfaction.

Let us consider some recent issues on which the legislature has given a poor performance. There is the case of Legislator Diane Lee’s (李慶安) alleged dual citizenship. The ruling KMT, with its overwhelming majority, has been unwilling to deal with the case in a forthright manner, exposing its irresponsibility and lack of principle. Lee has now resigned from the KMT but, according to the terms of the Nationality Act (國籍法), the legislature should turn the case over to judicial authorities for investigation and possible trial. Instead, its procrastination confirms the public’s impression of legislators’ wanton disregard for the law. As a result, public esteem for the legislature has sunk to a new low. If Lee really has been breaking the law for 14 years, she will fully deserve the title of “black-hearted legislator.”

Another reason it hard for the public to trust the legislature is the way the body has failed to properly review the government’s budget for the coming year, which it passed almost untouched. This only strengthens the public’s impression that legislators’ decisions are governed solely according to which side of the political divide they stand on, not the rights and wrongs of the matter at hand. It seems that all efforts to make the legislature more professional have been in vain.

Even more outrageous is the fact that the four cross-strait agreements reached at talks between Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) automatically came into effect only a short time after ARATS chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) left Taiwan, without the legislature — Taiwan’s highest representative body — having any say on the agreements at all. If things continue like this, the legislature might as well close its doors.

Taiwan’s parliamentary procedure still lacks transparency, allowing lawmakers to play backroom politics. We hope that the legislative procedure publicity committee proposed by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) quickly finishes setting up a video-on-demand system accessible through the Internet so that people can see for themselves how things are done in the legislature.

A legislature veiled in obscurity is not what the electorate thought they were voting for. Some legislators have appealed to the public not to “blacken the name” of their institution, but civic groups would not provoke the legislature if it weren’t for the fact that time after time another incident crops up to show that it is not doing a proper job.

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