The typhoon that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) predicted finally arrived, hitting Taiwan on Sept. 19. Thankfully, it was not too destructive. However, the political storm stirred up by the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) continues to rage, lashing the country with a different kind of wind and rain.
The storm has not only put the executive and legislative branches of government at loggerheads, it has also eroded the public’s trust in the judiciary amid ongoing controversies over improper lobbying and illegal wiretapping involving President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
Since Ma came to power in 2008, he has managed to secure a tight grip on the KMT. Despite this, in his more than five years of tenure, matters in Taiwan have gone from bad to worse, to the point that the president has now become an object of derision, with approval ratings languishing below 10 percent. How did it come to this?
Recently, several civil law experts issued a statement criticizing Ma for increasingly overstepping his role as defined by the Constitution, threatening the nation with a constitutional crisis and directly causing the current political turmoil.
The failings of Taiwan’s constitutional government are the result of the historical baggage with which the nation is laden. When the KMT government moved to Taiwan, it said that it would govern according to the Republic of China Constitution, which has been continually revised as situations arose, leading to a variety of problems.
In terms of the basic checks on power and accountability, the Constitution is utterly impotent in guarding against abuses of power by the president. It gives the president power, but no accountability: The nation’s presidents do not have to hold themselves accountable to the legislature.
The premier, in contrast, can be held accountable, but wields little power. Given this, when Ma says that the premier does not need to apologize to the legislature, how can Jiang then take it upon himself to apologize as a way to resolve the situation?
Consequently, the only person with the power and authority to resolve the current stalemate between the executive and the legislature is Ma, in his constitutional capacity as president.
If he has no interest in taking responsibility for the political turmoil and chooses to sit in the sidelines and watch the situation unfold, the public has no alternative but to look on as well, not knowing how long they will have to endure the tense drama involving a poker-faced premier and Wang awkwardly carrying on in his role.
The person who is responsible for creating this mess should find the solution for it. Ma did apologize to the public for the shortcomings of the revised Accounting Act (會計法), so it is difficult to see how he could not see that the public would be even more incensed over this constitutional stalemate.
To set Taiwan’s democracy and constitutional government back on track, Ma ought to cease his posturing and show a little wisdom and integrity by apologizing to the public, as well as brokering a compromise between the executive and the legislature.
This is the only way he can prevent Taiwan’s hard-won democracy from coming crashing down. Is this scenario the kind of historical legacy a politician craves to leave behind?
Ku Chung-hwa is a standing board member of Citizen’s Congress Watch.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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