The political witch hunt that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) instigated last month against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has yet to be resolved, and its reverberations are being felt ever more profoundly and keenly throughout the government. Due to the allegations of illegal surveillance of Wang and the president’s involvement in the scandal, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — to which both men belong — seems to be looking to settle the matter privately, as an in-house affair.
Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon us to make clear that this political turmoil and the power struggle behind it have already progressed to the point where they are no longer simply an internal KMT matter, and the general public has the right to demand the truth behind the events. The system needs to be reformed so that such political turmoil will not happen again.
First, what was Ma’s involvement?
Was he right to have held a press conference with the other two heavyweights in government, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), and directly accuse another figure with legislative powers, Wang, of improper lobbying of the judiciary, even before the case had been reviewed anywhere, including by the legislature’s internal Discipline Committee? Was the president guilty of attempting to set himself up in the role of judge, jury and executioner? And did he, with these actions, violate the Constitution and cause political chaos?
Then there is the distinction between Ma’s roles as president and as chairman of the KMT.
Ordering his party’s disciplinary mechanism, the Evaluation and Discipline Committee (考紀委員會), to revoke Wang’s party membership was tantamount to the president overtly conspiring the downfall of the legislative speaker. Does the KMT charter have precedence over the Constitution? Every president has governed in this way, ever since the initial implementation of the Constitution: They have always given their own political party highest priority. However, this leadership style, is like a wrecking ball to constitutional government. Constitutional violations cannot come to be seen as legal and constitutional simply because every president has carried them out in the past.
If the most powerful person in the country puts the interests of his party before those of the nation, we should immediately think about amending the Constitution and implementing a parliamentary system instead, so that the head of state cannot violate the Constitution by running the country on behalf of a particular party.
At the same time, we should also do away with fixed terms for presidents who wield real power and can turn a deaf ear to calls for them to step down.
Next, were surveillance and monitoring powers abused?
This abuse was the most heinous crime to come out when this whole sorry affair broke, and demonstrates that the days of the KMT employing Stasi-like tactics to govern the country are far from over.
When Ma first came to power he announced there would be no more wiretapping. This has been proven to be a lie. At this point, a simple apology from Ma would fall short. Concrete action must be taken to guarantee there will be no more abuse of surveillance powers.
Third, how did Jiang err?
One of the tenets of the constitutional government system is that the legislative branch supervises, and provides checks and balances for, the executive branch. It absolutely goes without saying that the executive branch should respect the legislature. When Jiang became involved in Ma’s conspiracy, he read the transcript of wiretapping conducted as part of an ongoing investigation and joined Ma at the aforementioned press conference. Even though he did not speak at this public event, his presence was sufficient to convey his complicity.