Lawmakers’ best weapon is their ability to legislate. Because constitutional amendments are procedurally complex, they would best be achieved through new legislation governing presidential powers. This would be an important way to reflect public opinion and would be more democratic than leaving it to the Council of Grand Justices to decide.
What would such legislation entail? Because the use of executive powers requires legal authorization, such legislation should concentrate on the procedures, methods and information regarding constitutional powers, as well as status and finances. Since the president needs to bear in mind civil society and the disadvantaged, it would not be excessive to require him to consult with the legislature and non-governmental organizations prior to nominating grand justices or Control Yuan members.
According to the Constitution, the legislature should decide issues of national importance, which would of course include cross-strait affairs. The president should discuss any major policies with it prior to implementing them, and even seek its authorization. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to retract a policy once it had been instigated.
Complete records should be kept of all data, telecommunications and recorded material, which should eventually be declassified and released, or made available to investigators.
Since the Constitution requires the armed forces to be given precedence over party affiliation, it follows that the president should not concurrently hold the position of party chairman.
History has shown that the president’s finances should not only be transparent, they should also be placed in a compulsory trust.
The more laws there are, the more complicated situations become and the more difficult it is to guard against abuses of power. Nevertheless, if shameless politicians given to pathological lying find it difficult to achieve even minimal standards of moral integrity, legislation must be created that can provide the proper checks and balances.
This is a general direction in which to proceed, but, aside from drastic and disruptive measures such as presidential impeachment or recall, how else can the legislature penetrate the Cabinet’s armor and use the law to directly constrain a president who has power without accountability?
Yen Chueh-an is a professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Law and a supervisor of Taiwan Democracy Watch.
Translated by Paul Cooper