While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has vowed that it will do everything possible to win the presidential election in 2016, former premier Yu Shyi-kun has been advocating a different idea. While winning the presidency is important, winning a majority in the 113-member Legislative Yuan could be even more crucial for safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty and prosperity, Yu says, adding that “de facto governance” would not be achieved until the DPP wins a legislative majority.
Yu, the longest-serving premier under the 2000 to 2008 DPP administration, understands to what extent a legislative minority can hamper an administration, as many DPP-initiated bills and proposals were blocked by the majority Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during his tenure, while domestic politics was deadlocked by party ideology. Things have not improved since the KMT returned to power in 2008, enjoying what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) called “total governance,” with the KMT controlling the executive branch and enjoying a dominant majority in the Legislative Yuan. What the public has experienced during the past five years is a rubber-stamp legislature. KMT lawmakers have supported every major controversial policy proposal and piece of legislation including relaxing the ban on US beef imports, the introduction of a capital gains tax on securities transactions, resumed construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市) and, most recently, the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Although the legislators did not always personally support these policies, as most of them speaking in interviews or on political talk shows voiced concerns about or opposition to Ma’s policy ideas, they nonetheless supported these ill-fated policies when the bills were put to a vote in the legislature because they would have been committing political suicide by defying Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman and can decide on future party nominations.
For KMT lawmakers, the objective was not to represent the public’s voice, but to secure their own futures and those of the groups that backed them. As for Ma, he never respected the legislature. Voting along party lines may be common in any given democratic country, but the practice should never be used in such a way as to completely ignore public opinion.
This is why Yu’s proposal makes sense. The former premier said that winning a majority in the legislature would probably be harder than winning the presidential election, and a party that controls only the legislature would have to operate more passively, as it would be unable to take the initiative in formulating policies that enhance livelihoods and national development. The DPP, or an opposition coalition, could safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty, national security and the everyday concerns of the public if it controlled the Legislative Yuan, whereas the KMT seems obsessed with pushing through the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Yu is right. It would be difficult for the DPP to jump from 40 seats to more than 57 in order to gain a legislative majority.
The current electoral system, which was changed from the system of single, non-transferable votes in multi-member districts to the single-district, two votes system in a 2005 constitutional amendment, does not favor those who wish to challenge the incumbents. Nor does it help that the DPP’s rival is the richest political party. If the DPP pursues Yu’s vision, it must do so unwaveringly. If the DPP wins the next presidential election, but is a minority in the legislature, it could be in for a deja vu experience.