On Tuesday, on his return from Malaysia, where he was attending the wedding of one of his daughters, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) gave a press conference at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, in which he strongly rebutted accusations of undue influence made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman.
The comments Wang made here will almost certainly find much sympathy among the public.
During the press conference, Wang pledged his loyalty to the KMT, expressed his resolve and said he hoped he could personally attend the KMT’s Central Evaluation and Discipline Committee meeting that was to be held the next day. The committee was put in the unenviable position of having to decide Wang’s fate.
Throughout this political showdown, the KMT has focused its attack on Wang’s alleged illegal lobbying, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has attacked the use of wiretapping and Wang has focused his response on the KMT’s abuse of power. Of the three, Wang’s efforts will be the most effective.
This year, Ma has been promoting a string of major policies and is reportedly frustrated that Wang has not done enough to push these through the legislature. Wang is more popular than Ma. According to an opinion poll conducted by the cable news channel TVBS in April, Wang has an approval rating at 45 percent, the highest of any politician in this country, compared with Ma’s approval rating of 16 percent, eighth among the politicians represented in the poll. Even if he were more popular, according to the doctrine of the separation of powers, the president should not be able to order the legislative speaker around.
Ma has contrived to rid himself of the legislative speaker in two ways:
First he accused Wang of unduly influencing the judiciary in the breach of trust case involving Formosa Telecom Investment Co, which allegedly involved Wang lobbying a prosecutor to refrain from appealing the not-guilty verdict given to DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘). Ma has said that the public is fed up with influence peddling cases in which “those with power get off, while those with no power end up in big trouble.”
In an unexpected move, Ma first forced former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) to resign to strengthen his claim that the illegal lobbying allegations had merit and to demonstrate his own determination to carry out reforms.
However, the evidence in the undue influence case was obtained by illegal wiretapping carried out by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID).
A standoff has arisen over illegal wiretapping as well as unduly influencing the legislature. Taiwan’s justice system lags far behind those of the West and as soon as court cases start here, disagreements break out over whether procedural justice or substantial justice should take precedence in the collection of evidence and sentencing.
Therefore, the source of the alleged undue influence and wiretapping incident — Ker’s breach of trust case, another example of a malicious political vendetta — was totally ignored.
Wang has not explicitly said this, but his response to Ma’s misuse of official power will win the hearts of the public. This whole affair has been an attempt to frame Wang.
The Presidential Office claims that Wang’s phone calls to Tseng, Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office Head Prosecutor Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) and Ker brought shame to Taiwan’s judiciary.
However, the judiciary’s image was already tainted by the Formosa Telecom case, and was further sullied when the SID pursued the prosecutor who decided not to appeal Ker’s verdict. With this attempt to frame Wang, Ma has not only failed to uphold justice, he has also insisted that Wang cannot receive a not guity verdict, and if it does, it will need to be appealed, obliging both Tseng and Wang to step down. The judiciary has been made redundant with all the political maneuvering.
Now that Wang has appealed the accusations, perhaps Ma’s scheming will come back to bite him.
The second way Ma has sought to oust Wang as legislative speaker is to deprive him of his position as KMT legislator-at-large — invalidating his speakership — by revoking his party membership. This may seem ingenious, but Wang was nominated as a legislator by the KMT — he was elected as legislative speaker. This being the case, the legitimacy of the president forcing him to resign from that role is questionable to say the least.
The same procedure applies to the president’s nomination list of Control Yuan members. After these members are ratified by the legislature, the president has no power whatsoever to dismiss them.
Ma could do what he did with one of his former Judicial Yuan presidents and try to force grand justices to step down; however, that would be malicious, unconstitutional, quite possibly illegal, and contrary to the doctrine of the separation of administrative and judiciary powers.
Ma really is a piece of work. After forcing Judicial Yuan president Lai In-jaw (賴英照) out of office in 2010, he has now attempted to do the same with Wang.
The KMT’s brutal infighting has seen Ma try to get rid of the legislative speaker, causing an unprecedented constitutional crisis. Now that the CEDC has decided to revoke Wang’s party membership, Ma’s already low approval ratings are destined to sink even lower.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Drew Cameron