Shortly after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to power in May 2008, the nation’s netizens came up with a new definition for the Chinese character huang (騜) to describe the new president. This amusing combination of the characters for “horse” (馬, Ma’s surname) and “emperor” (皇), actually seeks to make a serious point, by highlighting Ma’s seemingly absolute power, based on his Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) control of the executive branch and its majority in the legislature.
While some may find the reappropriation of this character silly, it nevertheless reflects netizens’ lingering concerns about one-man rule and the idea that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The netizens could little have expected that they were in for another big surprise. Following the -ongoing dispute over the newly signed cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and how it should be reviewed in the legislature, it now transpires that Ma is not just head of state and chairman of the KMT, but also seemingly fancies himself a member of the Council of Grand Justices and legislative speaker.
Without citing any articles in the Constitution or other regulations, Ma has unilaterally decided that the ECFA “looks like a treaty,” hence it should be considered a “quasi-treaty.” Following such proclamations, Ma has also argued that lawmakers cannot review a “quasi-treaty” item-by-item or amend anything in the ECFA, but only accept or reject it in its entirety.
What are we to make of a president who preaches about “doing all things in accordance with the law” and the inviolability of the Constitution when it suits him, only to turn a blind eye when his own rhetoric and conduct depart from that document?
According to Article 62 in the Constitution, the Legislative Yuan is the nation’s highest legislative body, whose members are elected by the public and entrusted to exercise legislative rights in the national legislature.
Unless the Legislative Yuan proceeds to defy the -Constitution, no one, including the president, should trample on its autonomy. The legislature has the legal authority to determine how it wishes to review the ECFA and the president has no right to intervene.
Ma is also ignoring constitutional interpretation No. 329 of the Grand Council of Justices, which states “pacts signed by both sides of the Strait are not considered as treaties.”
Disregarding such inconvenient laws and rulings, Ma has proclaimed the ECFA to be a “quasi-treaty” by fiat.
The absurdity of this situation is reminiscent of the notorious “1992 consensus” — a non-existent term fabricated in 2000 by then-Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起), who later said he coined it to facilitate cross-strait talks. Making up new terms to serve partisan interests appears to be a trick Ma has learned from his close confidant Su.
It appears that Ma will do absolutely anything to get the ECFA implemented without proper oversight, whether from the public or the legislature. The responsibility now rests not only with the opposition, but also KMT lawmakers to reject a bully’s abuse of power and demand that the Legislative Yuan’s authority be respected.
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