Sun, Jun 28, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Blame games in the way of reforms

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

On June 16, the last day of the most recent session of the Legislative Yuan, negotiations between the government and opposition parties on constitutional reform broke down, putting them back to square one. At the end of last year, following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) dismal performance in November’s nine-in-one elections, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) pledged that his party would launch a constitutional reform process, but this promise has become a mere illusion as government and opposition parties give greater consideration to wrangling for power. Now it is anybody’s guess when hopes for changing the “status quo” can be rekindled.

Faced with this breakdown of the constitutional reform process, the two main parties are only interested in blaming one another. They have not reflected upon why they have failed to adjust their strategies during the course of negotiations in a way that would allow Taiwanese to decide whether each issue can pass the test of public opinion.

Civic constitutional reform groups are furious and they are promising to mobilize voters to punish those “villains of history” who are standing in the way of constitutional reform. If that is to be done, the foremost task is to analyze the facts to determine which presidential or legislative candidates should be held responsible, because only then can voters be mobilized to teach them a lesson.

One of the reasons there has been much talk but little action over the proposals for constitutional reform is that the KMT has been having trouble finding someone to stand as its presidential candidate. This issue has attracted the attention of the media and opinion leaders, pushing the issue of constitutional reform to the sidelines; even though it has such important implications for civil rights, it has not been possible to form a strong-enough social force to push for the desired reforms.

The two big parties, which have the power to reform the Constitution, operate under the logic of game theory and they would rather use the breakdown of negotiations as an opportunity to blame the other side than sit down and cooperate with their rivals. Even on proposals on which the two sides say they have “a high degree of consensus,” such as lowering the voting age and lowering the threshold for parties to hold at-large seats in the legislature, in the end nothing has been achieved. This is the sad outcome of the two sides’ mutual trickery and intransigence.

In retrospect, the option of maintaining the “status quo” in the constitutional order would seem on the surface to be the safest choice for the two main parties. However, this involves losing the chance to use a referendum to set a core agenda with constitutional authority and inspire the public to take part in debates and action to do with constitutional reform. Maybe the ruling party does not care about the profound implications of having the public take part in politics, but for the opposition party, this might cause the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections to be restricted to the single issue of unification versus independence and cross-strait relations, with the Democratic Progressive Party standing to lose more than it gains.

Meanwhile, the ongoing wave of protests against adjustments to school textbooks is showing Taiwanese adults that the current generation of senior-high school students are mature enough to think independently. Even though the age at which they enjoy suffrage will not be lowered in time to directly influence the political scene, they have already upset the traditional political environment. One can only wonder whether the KMT really wants the votes of the younger generation in next year’s elections.

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