EDITORIAL: Legislative review was a farce

Fri, Sep 30, 2011 - Page 8

If evidence was needed of how poorly Taiwan’s legislature works, Wednesday’s legislative review and approval of Executive Yuan-nominated Central Election Commission (CEC) members would be a good place to start.

On the surface, the review process appears to be a good idea. The Executive Yuan nominates CEC members based on experience, political acumen and character, and a panel of legislators led by a committee chairperson reviews the nominees before deciding whether they should be appointed.

Granting permission for somebody to become a CEC member is an important decision, because these people have power over Taiwanese elections and could essentially shape Taiwanese democracy.

In the review process, lawmakers are meant to grill candidates on their political views, their character and their ethics. If they are unsuitable and, for example, hold an allegiance to any particular political party or harbor authoritarian views, they should be rejected outright. This needs to be established in the review.

Wednesday’s review went nothing like that. Instead, it was a farce on the level of political satire. The writers of Everyone Talks Nonsense (全民大悶鍋) couldn’t have thought up a better script.

The review process had barely started when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Jen-shu (黃仁杼) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) noticed that one of the nominees was missing. Apparently, incumbent CEC member Chai Song-lin (柴松林), who was up for review, did not show up because he was, in fact, overseas. This angered legislators across party lines, but they could not agree on whether to postpone the review or keep going, so KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), who was convening the meeting, called a 10-minute break for negotiations.

Huang Chao-shun then disappeared and didn’t return for 50 minutes. After offering an absurd excuse for her extended absence, she reconvened the meeting. However, when DPP legislators protested, she called another recess, which lasted until lunchtime. By that time, the DPP legislators had quit the review in frustration, but that didn’t stop the meeting reconvening after lunch, with the remaining KMT legislators approving all five CEC nominees, even the absent Chai.

Three of the nominees were incumbents, while the other two were picked by an Executive Yuan under Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) that shows little neutrality in political matters. Those incumbents were responsible for the CEC blocking multiple requests by the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union to put the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) to a referendum. Without the referendum, Taiwan’s public had no say over a cross-strait agreement that is paving the way to economic unification.

The same CEC had also decided to move next year’s presidential election forward two months, which would give President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) if he is voted out, four months to meddle in state affairs before having to vacate the Presidential Office.

To all intents and purposes, the CEC appears loyal to the Ma administration. Furthermore, it seems willing to bend the rules to rig the game in Ma’s favor. The legislative review committee is the last bastion of hope for public officials to fix this situation.

That is why it is so disappointing to see CEC officials take up their positions without even having to answer basic questions about their character, mainly because KMT and DPP legislators can’t agree on anything, even what to do when political nominees disrespect the legislature.