President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) encountered a setback as the scheduled confirmation vote on the 29 members of the fifth-term Control Yuan failed to proceed due to hindrance from opposition lawmakers. Even more embarrassing for the chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is that some KMT lawmakers were happy with the result.
Before the vote, the KMT demanded that its lawmakers show their punched ballot to each other or face party discipline, prompting opposition lawmakers to use delay tactics to stave off the vote to confirm Central Election Commission Chairperson Chang Po-ya (張博雅) and former Council of Indigenous Peoples minister Sun Ta-chuan (孫大川) as president and vice president, respectively, of the Control Yuan. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) then declared the extra session over, leaving the vote pending in the legislature.
Presidential Office spokesperson Yin Wei (殷瑋) and KMT spokesperson Charles Chen (陳以信) both wasted no time condemning the opposition, saying it could cause a constitutional crisis, because current Control Yuan members’ terms expire on July 31.
Be that as it may, the boycott staged mainly by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) risks being considered unconstitutional. If such a constitutional crisis occurs, Ma should take the blame for putting forward a controversial list of nominees.
Interpretation No. 632 handed down by the Council of Grand Justices in August 2007 ruled in favor of a request the DPP filed in May 2005, asking about the constitutionality of the pan-blue lawmakers’ boycott in screening then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) candidate list for the Control Yuan in December 2004.
According to the constitutional interpretation, the Control Yuan is one of the state organs created by the Constitution to fulfill a constitutional function, and thus their operation cannot be interrupted because of a personnel reshuffle. A president is obliged to make nominations and the legislature to exercise its power of approval, otherwise the Control Yuan would become unable to perform its function, thus undermining the integration of the nation’s constitutional system, which is not permitted by the Constitution, the interpretation said.
The constitutional interpretation did not resolve the stalemate over Chen’s nominees, as the then-opposition alliance led by the KMT argued that the Council of Grand Justices had encroached on the autonomous operation of the legislature. They continued their boycott, which forced the Control Yuan to sit idle for three-and-a-half years until Ma became president.
It would help the Ma administration and the KMT to find a way to avoid such a constitutional crisis if they can think back to the past, when they refused to review the Control Yuan member nominee list submitted by Chen. The main reasons they cited then were that Chen had used the nomination process as political patronage and that some then-sitting Control Yuan members were not nominated again because they had been investigating corruption allegations involving the Chen family.
The roster of Control Yuan nominees submitted by Ma came under much harsher criticism than Chen’s, with many of the nominees dubbed either “loyalists” or “friends of Ma.” Even some KMT lawmakers have singled out 11 candidates, saying they would vote against their confirmation if the KMT did not apply party discipline to the voting.