Fri, Dec 09, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Legal setup for transfer of power

By Lin Chia-cheng 林嘉誠

The outlook for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) bid for the presidency next month is looking brighter all the time. The contenders in the presidential election have all officially registered as candidates, and there is a strong possibility that the Jan. 14 election will result in a transfer of power from one party to another. Already some DPP supporters are fretting that, during the interlude between Jan. 14 and the new president’s inauguration on May 20, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government may pull a lot of strings, some of which might be detrimental to the interests of the state and the public. Some even worry that the KMT might refuse to hand over the reins of government.

Of course, one should not ascribe ulterior motives to other people without good cause. However, the concern remains that in a democratic society where the rule of law prevails, everything should be done according to the law. To ensure that happens, the ruling and opposition parties should set aside their political differences and get on with the job of formulating legislation to regulate the transfer of government authority.

KMT lawmakers have come up with a number of proposals and put them together to form the party’s draft law on the transfer of power. The DPP also presented its own draft two months ago, after consulting with academics and experts. It is to be expected that there would be differences between the positions laid out in the drafts proposed by the governing and opposition parties. The point, however, is that nobody can guarantee that any party will either be in government forever or eternally in opposition. Just as the prefaces to the versions proposed by both sides say, changes in the governing party is likely to be a normal state of affairs in this country in the future.

For the sake of Taiwan’s long-term stability and security, setting up a legal framework to regulate transfers of power is an urgent task. From a negative point of view, it can prevent the incumbent administration from refusing to cooperate and from making reckless policy and personnel changes or wasting national resources during the handover period.

From a more positive angle, it would safeguard the security of the president-elect and ensure that he or she can get a grip on government in good time. To this end, concerned government agencies should cooperate with the incoming administration on business and personnel matters to facilitate a smooth handover.

In fact, as far back as 12 years ago, the governing and opposition parties at the time had already proposed legislative motions calling for speedy completion of regulations covering the transfer of government authority. Unfortunately, the two major parties each had their own agenda. The KMT, which was in power at the time, did not want to have its hands tied, and to protect its own interests, it made sure that that opportunity to set up a transfer system was lost.

When I was serving as head of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, I invited academics and experts to collect data about the procedures for government handovers in advanced democracies such as the US, Germany and France. The book is probably the most comprehensive research on the subject of government transfer ever published in Taiwan. A considerable part of the versions now being proposed by the two main parties is drawn directly from the book or by reference to it.

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