The “September strife” ambush launched by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) against Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) that showed no respect whatsoever for due process in constitutional government has not only been blasted by the public and various civic groups, but many senior Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members have also strongly criticized it.
What is unusual about the whole thing is that not only have KMT legislators kept silent about the political principles of this constitutional issue, but even the legislature — which is supposed to be responsible for placing checks and balances on executive authority — has shown no signs of taking constitutional means to solve this crisis.
The improper lobbying of the judiciary on behalf of an old friend, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), of which Wang has been accused would not be accepted by any democratic society and would certainly constitute a scandal in any country that respects the rule of law.
Under Ma’s unconstitutional and clumsy political manipulation this dispute has temporarily taken a back seat to other issues, but if the politicians involved think that they can get off scot-free amid all the recent chaos, they are underestimating the public.
Regrettably, the legislature, which is supposed to guard against unconstitutional actions and the abuse of power by the executive based on the principles of “separation of powers” and “legislative discipline,” has yet to show any signs of initiating any “legislative discipline.”
All we have seen is Ker, who, unable to handle the internal and external pressures on him, made a political move in which he demanded that the Legislative Yuan’s Discipline Committee review his alleged role in the lobbying case. However, this has not had any official procedural effect at all.
DPP legislators have been focusing on how Ma’s actions were unconstitutional and have thrown politics into turmoil, but they avoid the question of whether Ker is still suitable to continue on as whip, or just state that that the issue is complicated.
The DPP’s Central Committee has also remained silent over whether it should launch an internal party investigation and start disciplinary procedures. Ideals such as “reform” and “progressive values” that the DPP once championed have since lost their value.
KMT legislators have shown themselves to be no different, their loyalties caught between Ma and Wang. Their best bet is to remain noncommittal, avoid any mention of a constitutional crisis, try to create an atmosphere of harmony, letting bygones be bygones and looking toward the future and suddenly starting to focus on issues related the living standards, hoping to draw people’s attention away from the various “misunderstandings” that have occurred.
A legislature that tries to smooth over differences without regard for right and wrong will not only have a hard time placing checks and balances on a president that is already out of control, it will also be incapable of winning the confidence and respect of civil society. There are two major issues that the legislature cannot avoid.
First, did Ma go against the Constitution or interfere in legislative responsibility to respond to this? And second, did Wang and Ker break the law, requiring legislative disciplinary measures? How the legislature will respond to these problems and how those involved will get themselves out of this predicament are matters that the public are already paying very close attention to.
Huang Kuo-chang is a research professor at Academia Sinica’s Institutum Iurisprudentiae.
Translated by Drew Cameron