EDITORIAL: A true presidential system - Taipei Times
Sun, Oct 01, 2017 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: A true presidential system

A group of 41 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators on Wednesday announced a proposal to transform the nation’s political structure into a true presidential system, similar to that used in the US and other countries. Legislators said the move was necessary to ensure an effective legislative process and a clear demarcation of authority.

The current system requires legislative proposals to be shuffled between the Cabinet, which is officially called the Executive Yuan Council, and the legislators, making it possible for Cabinet members — including the premier — or legislators to be dismissed when agreements cannot be reached.

Unlike in the US, where members of both houses of Congress are elected by the public, the members of Taiwan’s Executive Yuan Council — the nation’s chief policymaking organ — which includes the heads of the various ministries, are directly appointed by the premier.

The council has other powers stipulated in Article 58 of the Constitution, such as the power to evaluate statutory and budgetary bills concerning martial law and amnesty, declare war, conclude conflicts or approve treaties, and make decisions on other matters before submitting them to the Legislative Yuan.

In a presidential system, all of these powers are held by the president, the highest executive authority.

The nation’s legislators have said that power would be better balanced when the Executive Yuan is replaced with a new, independent executive branch, which would share power equally with the legislative and judicial branches.

Democratically, it makes more sense to have policymaking handled by elected legislators, but in a presidential system, it would become even more important for majority and opposition lawmakers to cooperate on key issues.

During his inauguration speech on Sept. 11, Premier William Lai (賴清德) — who served as a legislator for 11 years, from 1999 to 2010 — emphasized the importance of improved communication between opposing parties and mutual understanding on major legislation.

“The assistance of the legislature is indispensable to achieve immediate results and the DPP caucus is a key player in providing help,” Lai said.

While DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said his party would “provide the most solid support for Premier Lai,” opposition legislators responded with various demands, demonstrating the challenge of seeking consensus in cross-caucus negotiations.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Lin Te-fu (林德福) asked Lai not to be “the president’s chief of staff,” but lead the Cabinet with professionalism and a discreet division of labor. The People First Party asked the premier to make labor policy, food safety, drug prevention and cross-strait issues his top priorities. The New Power Party (NPP) caucus asked the premier to prioritize legislation proposed by that party, including a draft whistle-blower protection act, a set of more stringent revolving-door rules for financial institutions, a draft minimum wage act and a draft media monopoly prevention act.

NPP Legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal asked him to speed up efforts to reinstate Aboriginal rights, citing Lai’s experience in restoring the rights of “plains” Aborigines in Tainan, where he served as mayor.

This request at least seems likely to be realized as legislators said that more authority is to be given to Aborigines through the appointment of a minimum quota of Aboriginal legislators under the new presidential system.

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