The cruel, vindictive way President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has sought to cut down Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is due to Ma’s frustration and embarrassment at his dire popularity rating, which is now below 10 percent. It is also informative to note how far the logic behind Ma’s attack is divorced from the protection of universal values, which is what the public actually expects of him.
The current manifestation of the Constitution might go too far in requiring the separation of powers into five branches of government — the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan — but the most fundamental principle of the separation of three powers — the executive, legislative and judicial branches — is not written into the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) own rules.
To get around the Constitution, the political attack on Wang proceeded by allowing the executive branch to bypass the legislative branch. The principles of constitutional government were circumvented.
There are certain points that have become confused. The first regards whether the president is higher than the head of another branch, and whether he has the power to remove him. Herein lies a serious distortion. The legislative speaker is not nominated by the president, he is elected by legislators of all party affiliations. His position is not remotely contingent on the president. The president is simply the head of one of the three main branches of government, the Executive Yuan. What business has he trying to remove a leader of the Legislative Yuan?
The second point is particularly exasperating. While it sounds reasonable that, as Wang represents the KMT in the legislature, the revocation of his party membership precludes him from his position as legislative speaker, it is appalling that this could happen.
The nation’s system of constitutional government is fatally flawed. Here is one of the reasons: Ma, through the abuse of internal party regulations, can pillory a member of his own party, and in so doing attack the legislative leader, who is constitutionally the president’s equal. This is a grievous flaw in the system of constitutional government. If Ma manages to pull this off now, we will see it happen again.
Ma and his attack dogs have been entirely disproportionate in their actions and have sought to exploit the loopholes in the system in order to protect their own interests.
In his Two Treatises of Government, the philosopher John Locke, one of the founders of modern democratic theory, wrote of the principle of constitutional government, which is a universal value. He wrote that a person can do anything, as long as it is not prohibited by law, whereas a government cannot do anything, unless it is permitted by law.
It may well be true that there is nothing contentious about Ma acting to remove the legislative speaker within electoral law or internal party rules. However, there is nothing in the Constitution which allows a president to force the resignation of a legislative speaker, who has been invested with constitutional powers through election to the nation’s legislature. Therefore, Ma cannot rightly do it. If he does, it will create a constitutional crisis.
Constitutional law was created to restrict executive power — the power of the king. Ma can treat the legislature with such contempt because of the majority he has there, bought with KMT assets. Anyone who protects him now should be made to stand down, otherwise all is empty talk.
Christian Fan Jiang is deputy secretary-general of the Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Paul Cooper