The latest scandal over President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) abuse of power in his bid to oust the legislative speaker from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has created a national crisis. When society turns its focus to political disputes between political figures, it damages political and constitutional democracy.
Ma wants to force Legislative Speaker Wan Jin-pyng (王金平) out for failing to push through a proposed cross-strait service trade agreement, the referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), and others such as a peace agreement and other China-related policies.
For such reasons, without even waiting for the judiciary to handle the allegations of improper lobbying, the president intervened in the judicial process by removing the speaker and sending a warning to others, which triggered the political turmoil.
The president also issued press statements praising the Legislative Yuan, as if he were now in charge of it.
According to the constitution, there is only one power granted to the president in relation to the legislature — if it were to resign en masse, the president can dismiss the legislative body. The independent power of the legislature is described in the Council of Grand Justices’ Interpretation No. 342 (www.judicial.gov.tw/constitutionalcourt/EN/p03_01.asp?expno=342).
With Ma concurrently serving as president and KMT chairman, he has created political disputes, abused his power and breached the principle of separation of powers. This has created a serious constitutional crisis, transforming a democracy into a dictatorship.
If there is a case of improper lobbying, it must be handled by the Legislative Yuan because it is an autonomous and self-
governing body. Its members must collectively decide whether any from among them should be investigated.
It is not acceptable for a prosecutor to visit the president and for the president to take the matter into his own hands. He must make decisions after consulting other government bodies.
This is clearly a case in which “the legislative power has been encroached on by the executive power” and of the “executive power encroaching on the judicial process.” Ma’s actions are a poor precedent for the nation’s constitutional rights.
The greatest cause for concern is the potential collapse of a new democracy. If this were to happen, the legislature would be controlled by the president. Ma could unilaterally determine the nation’s future, including on cross-strait issues.
The allegation of improper lobbying is a case that should be handled by the legislative and judicial bodies. The legislature’s power cannot be pushed aside and the independence of the judiciary cannot be used as a weapon for political infighting. The Legislative Yuan must set out to defend its autonomy and independence to fulfill its constitutional duties, and it must stop Ma from continuing to disregard and encroach on the legislative and judicial processes.
Regardless of party affiliations, legislators must exhaust all constitutional channels — including immediately passing a legislative condemnation — request explanations from the higher courts and, according to the constitutional law, review the regulation regarding impeachment of the president.
Lawmakers must consider taking a further step by impeaching the president and recalling the Cabinet to fight Ma’s violations of the Constitution.
Cheng Li-chiun is a Democratic Progressive Party legislator.