Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) alleged improper lobbying on behalf of Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) has unexpectedly prompted calls for legislative reform.
The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) caucus is now talking about amending laws to the effect that in future, when negotiations on bills remain deadlocked for one month, they would automatically be put to a vote, thus preventing bills from being delayed by minority parties.
In order to stop minority parties from blocking the passage of bills once they reach the floor, the KMT caucus wants to amend regulations such as those contained in the Organic Act of the Legislative Yuan (立法院組織法) and increase the threshold for establishing a legislative caucus from the three legislators to four.
They are also saying that the negotiation process should be made more open and transparent, the expertise of specialized legislative committees should be respected, and tactics such as opposition parties occupying the podium should be ignored.
These measures really give one a strong sense of things being out of time and out of place.
The strong remedies being proposed highlight the many irregularities that exist in our legislative negotiation process. Policies like strengthening the functions of the legislature’s committees and making the negotiation process more open could indeed make legislative negotiation more transparent.
However, they would also limit the opportunities for smaller political parties to hold the ruling parties and individuals accountable.
Moves such as decreasing the influence of negotiations between different political parties and relying on voting and disciplinary measures to promptly resolve disputed bills would definitely create another wave of doubts over the strength of democracy and constitutional government in Taiwan.
Small parties sometimes threaten not to sign off on the conclusions of negotiations, or they may try to block bills from being passed, but tactics like these did not start during this legislative term. During the last legislative term, the Non-Partisan Taiwan Solidarity Union aligned itself with the KMT on all important bills, so it did not cause any problem for the majority party.
The key question is whose interests the small parties support — the ruling party or the opposition? Or are these minor parties concerned with the interests of the citizens they represent?
It is of course unreasonable that a caucus of three legislators — the minimum number required — could overthrow decisions made by a majority of the other 110 legislators. However, increasing the minimum caucus size to four is a blatant attempt to block bills proposed by the People First Party from being negotiated. Is respect for small parties’ right to have a say in the legislative agenda not commonly understood as being one of the most basic conditions for maintaining a democratic system?
Decreasing the influence of negotiations between different political parties and strengthening the functions of the legislature’s special committees are things that could help the legislature become more professional and specialized. However, it is very suspicious for the KMT to come up with this proposal at this time, when Wang is no longer as much under the party’s control as he used to be.