The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Thursday pulled out of the televised debate on the cross-strait service trade agreement scheduled for tomorrow, citing the controversy swirling around Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), which it said threatens a constitutional crisis.
It was the one piece of good news in a week of political turmoil.
The two-hour debate, which was agreed upon on Aug. 28, would have seen President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) each ask and respond to four questions as well as give four more rebuttals. It was designed along the lines of Ma’s stage-managed debate on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in April 2010 with then-DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). It would have provided Ma with another chance to show the international community that a second major trade accord with China was given a “full airing” under Taiwan’s democratic system.
However, there is nothing democratic or open about the way the Ma administration has handled cross-strait negotiations. They continue to be conducted by a small cadre of officials and KMT members, who then present the results as a fait accompli.
The likelihood that the debate would have actually provided rational answers to the many questions Taiwanese have about the accord and its potential impact on their businesses and livelihoods was minimal from the outset. Ma and Su would have likely repeated their previous statements and policy positions. It is unlikely that anything Su would have said would have led to Ma altering his stance; it would have simply provided him with the cover of having “listened” to what critics of the pact are saying.
Despite the press releases and speeches rolled out by Ma, Cabinet ministers and the KMT since the agreement was signed on June 21, polls have shown that a majority of people know little about what the accord covers and how it will affect the economy. Instead of analyzing what they are doing wrong in their efforts to “inform” the public, Ma’s team continues to rule by diktat instead of democratically.
Just how little regard Ma’s administration has for the democratic process was made appallingly evident by Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien on Thursday in his comments about Ma’s handling of the “Wang Jin-pyng scandal.”
Wang Chien-shien blamed the speaker’s “tact in dealing with people, his preference for negotiation” as the reason that KMT lawmakers have not been able to use their legislative majority to steamroll bills through the legislature since Ma took office in 2008.
He laid the failure of the KMT to accomplish all of its goals on the DPP’s “choke-hold” on the legislative process, adding that Wang Jin-pyng should have resigned long ago and apologized “both to the party and the nation.”
Given the New Party’s failure to win any legislative seats in the past two legislative elections, one might see where Wang Chien-shien, one of the founders of the party, would be feeling a bit peeved with that branch of the government.
However, he had no problems with the pan-blue camp’s “choke-hold” on the legislature during the eight years the DPP was in power.
For the head of the government watchdog to think that tact and negotiation are not essential to the legislative process is dumbfounding. It is no less astounding that he thinks Wang Jin-pyng first owes an apology to the KMT for failing to allow it to run roughshod over the legislature before the speaker apologizes to the nation for the legislative morass.
The nation’s politics will never emerge from the blue-green divide and closed-door dealings with China until more officials and leaders put the nation above party politics. Unfortunately that does not appear likely to happen any time soon.