Thu, May 04, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The art of being the opposition

The disruptive tactics indiscriminately wielded by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus in the legislative general assembly and committee meetings in opposition to the government’s policies — occupying the speaker’s podium, using tables as thrusting weapons, snatching microphones and threatening administrative staff — have betrayed their lack of leadership and their cluelessness about the appropriate role of a minority party in the legislature.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) was certainly right when he said in a cross-caucus negotiation boycotted by the KMT caucus on Tuesday that the KMT has been playing the role of the opposition party effortlessly, as they just oppose whatever the ruling party puts forward.

Despite the KMT caucus not having its own proposal for pension reform — it did release one, but retracted it soon after — KMT lawmakers occupied the speaker’s podium during Monday’s pension reform review in an effort to block the DPP’s proposal.

The KMT caucus on Tuesday boycotted the general assembly even when the ruling party had already agreed to restart a committee review of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program on Wednesday, after conceding there had been procedural flaws in the review last week. Instead of taking part yesterday, the KMT caucus beat gongs and blew whistles in a circus-like obstruction of the review.

During the review, Ker cited several development plans proposed by previous administrations with the exact dates they had been passed, often only a month after the previous plan, in the legislature when the DPP was the legislative minority.

Ker might well have been selective in the examples he cited, but he did show that as the DPP caucus whip, he knows legislative history, procedures and rules extremely well.

As an opposition party for decades, the DPP is well aware that establishing order in the legislature, by maintaining harmony and reaching consensus on how to keep it functioning, is a cumulative exercise.

“Lack of trustworthiness would lead [the legislature] nowhere,” Ker said, as he pointed out examples where the KMT caucus disagreed with what their representatives to negotiations had agreed to and reneged on signed deals.

Individual KMT lawmakers have reportedly had meaningful discussions with members of other parties, but all insisted that they were only representing their personal opinions.

Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), the KMT caucus convener, allegedly took the radical step of grabbing a table to ram the podium out of fear that other KMT lawmakers were not assertive enough in blocking the infrastructure bill.

Former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), a legislative veteran and former KMT caucus leader, has been absent from the KMT caucus fights, and from the negotiations and legislative operations all together. He once played a crucial role in maintaining the order that Ker said is now missing in the legislature, and no one has been able to fill his shoes to work out a strategy for the KMT to act as an opposition party that could engage in serious talks and cooperate when necessary.

Lack of experience in cooperating with civil groups and activists is another impediment to the KMT caucus staging an effective opposition. The party knows that some issues are controversial, but it cannot help but resort to partisan political jargon when criticizing policy. The KMT might learn and fare better if it gets the chance to remain an opposition party for a few more terms.

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