It has been more than three years since the seventh legislature took office in early 2008, yet the hope that halving the number of legislative seats would facilitate reform seems to have come to nothing.
It has also been three years since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office. At the beginning of his term, he promised that as far as proposed sunshine legislation was concerned, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would use its legislative majority to meet public demands for reform.
However, apart from establishing the Anti----Corruption Administration, an agency that overlaps the functions of other government agencies, and passing a toothless amendment to the Anti--Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) demanding that officials declare the source of their assets, nothing has been achieved.
Finally, on May 6, the legislature passed an amendment to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) proposed by the opposition.
The amendment stipulates that elected public officials must return their campaign subsidies if their elections are nullified because of vote-buying charges.
This particular amendment falls in line with what Citizen’s Congress Watch has been calling for, because it is beneficial to the electorate and aids the realization of fairness and justice in society.
Political scientist John Rawls wrote in his book A Theory of Justice that the most fundamental principle of justice is the assumption that there is a “veil of ignorance,” which means that those who set the rules of the game do not know on which side they will end up.
Only a rule like this is capable of guaranteeing a minimal level of fairness and avoiding bias in favor of one party over another.
Because Taiwan has experienced two power transfers, we should all be aware of this rationale.
In a democracy, the political majority is likely to change. This means that if one party uses its legislative majority to force through legislation that is beneficial to itself at the time, then that party will have to taste its own bitter medicine once it loses power and becomes the minority.
In Taiwan’s legislature, there is no clear regulation stipulating in which order cases should be handled by the Procedure Committee. Because of a complete lack of transparency and external monitoring in the legislature, whichever camp has a majority can block the proposals of the minority at will.
Such hidden rules are a departure from the principles of justice.
This single example demonstrates that the legislature is not transparent and that unfairness and injustice lurk in the details.
However, thanks to the efforts of Citizen’s Congress Watch, the legislature has finally launched an “interactive video on demand” system, which exposes lawmakers’ performances to the public. This is at least one achievement in the name of legislative reform that has occurred over the past three years.
Still, it is public disappointment with this lack of reform that will once again turn the focus of the year-end legislative election campaign to the issue of legislative reform.
We, the voters, can use the Citizen’s Congress Watch’s evaluation of legislators as a reference.
In addition, if a party manages to propose reform policies that truly touch our hearts, we should show our support by casting our ballot for that political party.
Ku Chung-hwa is an executive director of Citizen’s Congress Watch.