Lawmakers apparently think that verbal and physical altercations are just part of the democratic process, a line of argument that is strikingly similar to the excuses used by looters in England this week — that voicing discontent through ransacking, trashing and arson was the only way they could make sure their voices were heard by a government they claimed had disenfranchised them.
Legislators became miffed after discovering that they were included in a Foreign Policy article last month that placed much of the blame for woes in Taiwan, the US, Belgium, Iraq, Japan and Afghanistan on legislative gridlock caused by partisanship and personal vanity.
It took author Cameron Abadi just three pithy paragraphs in “Parliamentary Funk” to sum up what ails Taiwan: It has a system designed to produce a divided government, hyper-partisanship ensures the pan-blue and pan-green camps despise one another, fistfights are valued more than cooperation and too often major global problems that impact Taiwan are ignored in favor of color-centric domestic squabbles.
Abadi deserves praise, not just for being spot on, but for managing to get blue and green lawmakers to unite for a few minutes.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) dismissed Abadi and his article as outdated, saying that the last brawl was three years ago during the review of certain “highly controversial political” issues.
The reconciliation of differences was part of the democratic process, he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) called the article hurtful and humiliating, and criticized it for dragging up the past.
Apparently more than a few heads have been rattled by the physical exertion required of lawmakers, as short-term memory loss appears to be rampant.
It was just over a year ago — on July 8 — that two legislators ended up needing medical attention after a full-scale brawl over how the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) should be reviewed.
From the start of that day’s session there was turmoil, as lawmakers shoved and hit each other, and threw trashcans and teacups. DPP Legislator Kuo Wen-chen (郭玟成) broke a rib falling off the speaker’s podium during a scuffle, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) needed eight stitches after being hit by a projectile.
The cause of the conflict? The DPP had wanted the legislature to be able to execute its constitutional duty and review the ECFA article by article, while the KMT wanted nothing more than a cursory look to give the appearance of legislative oversight.
It was as choreographed as a Jets and Sharks face-off in West Side Story.
The KMT accuses the DPP of “minority bullying,” while the DPP decries the KMT’s use of its majority to run roughshod over the legislative process.
The truth is that many lawmakers consider such theatrics more appealing than monotonous day-to-day minutia and reasoned discussion. In addition, when was the last time a political issue in Taiwan was not considered “highly controversial”?
Just as many of those arrested during the mayhem in English cities have not been under-educated, unemployed youngsters from the under-class, but habitual thieves, blue-collar workers, college students and children, the dysfunction at the heart of the legislature remains the blue-green divide.