The Liberty Times Editorial: Use the power at the ballot box

Sun, May 18, 2014 - Page 8

A student-led movement has revealed the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) innate authoritarianism. President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government has offered absolutely no substantive response to the student movement’s civic demands.

The students evacuated the legislative chamber peacefully, but there is no end in sight to the score-settling that has followed; plainclothes police have waved down taxis to send students home; the Cabinet version of the act for regulating the oversight of cross-strait agreements is tantamount to no oversight at all, just as the birdcage Referendum Act (公民投票法) means no referendums; the adjustment to the high-school curriculum encouraged the publishers of certain textbooks to accuse the opposition of confusing national identity and the Ma administration is supporting this attempt at brainwashing based on the freedom of expression; last week there were reports that GRETAI Securities Market had terminated the contract for the company that handled the students’ fundraising platform ahead of time.

There are still lots of demonstrations and there have even been proposals that would restrict rights allowed under the Parade and Assembly Act (集會遊行法). On May 13, the KMT wanted to force through an amendment to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) to increase protection for pan-blue legislators who have upset the public.

All these actions make it clear that the government ignores public opinion at will and no one knows how far it is prepared to go.

The party’s behavior over the amendment to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act revealed its true colors. One of the main reasons why Ma with his infamous 9 percent approval rating wants to use the power offered by his KMT chairmanship to control the party’s legislative majority is that he does not want legislators to fear acting against their conscience — the amendment to the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act being a case in point.

According to the act, those calling for the recall of a civil servant and those who sign a document to that purpose only have to provide their name, ID number and household registration address.

The amendment proposed by the KMT, however, adds requirements that those who call for the recall of a civil servant and those who sign that call must also attach an affidavit and a copy of their ID card.

The intent behind this change is to make it more difficult to recall someone. If this amendment is passed, these legislators can continue to carry out Ma’s will to the end, without having to fear being recalled while at the same time currying favor with Ma by doing his bidding, and translating that into future political rewards.

The amendment and the recent nominations of members to the Control Yuan are probably being used by the Ma administration to incite an even bigger political storm.

Most of Ma’s nominations for a seat on the Control Yuan have served him well in the past and they will now be charged with seeing to it that Ma does not become the target of score-settling.

Anyone who has the skills required for their jobs but has made Ma look bad can just pack up their things and leave.

Even worse, outgoing Control Yuan President Wang Chien-hsien (王建煊) has ordered that the Control Yuan members who impeached Control Yuan Secretary-General Chen Feng-yi (陳豐義) for destroying documents in a way that violated the Archives Act (檔案法) be investigated. Ma decided on his nominations by looking at who supports him.

Wang, who has said in public that his biggest regret was that he accepted the Control Yuan presidency, has followed suit and done what he can to trample on those Control Yuan members that Ma discarded. Are they trying to set an example for the new Control Yuan nominees?

While all this has been going on, the Cabinet announced that it will hold a national conference on trade and the economy in July.

Taiwan’s current political stalemate is no longer only about the economy and trade.

While the opaque handling of the service trade agreement has angered the public, the problem with the agreement is that our lame-duck president is using his party to lead the government and force its legislators to do his bidding, which has put him on a collision course with public opinion.

In September last year, Ma tried to get rid of Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), thereby interfering directly with the legislature and destroying the balance between the executive and the legislative branches of the government.

At that time, Central Election Commission (CEC, 中央選舉委員會) Chairwoman Chang Po-ya (張博雅) abandoned administrative neutrality by rapidly canceling Wang’s party membership.

Although the KMT lost the lawsuit filed by Wang, Chang was nominated for the Control Yuan presidency. The public can decide for themselves whether this was a political reward.

Lest we forget, to protect the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, and the pan-blue legislators, the KMT brazenly refused to amend the Referendum Act and lower the quorum threshold while raising the threshold for recalling legislators in order to protect “Ma’s pawns.”

Ma continues to play his power games despite an approval rating of only 9 percent and tramples all over the true masters of a democratic country. Why is he able to do this? The problem clearly lies with the workings of the constitutional framework.

As long as the constitutional articles that benefit the KMT are not amended, the KMT can continue to ignore public opinion and still maintain a legislative majority, allowing Ma to use the power and money provided by the party to continue his authoritarian rule regardless of how low his support drops.

The Sunflower movement hit the nail on the head with its call for a civic constitutional conference.

However, lame-duck Ma will not voluntarily give up power and hand it back to the masters of the nation. Instead, Ma will hold a national conference on trade and the economy to cover up the infection in the Constitution, yet another trick aimed at deceiving the public.

Ma continues to take advantage of the public, and what can we do? If a revolution or a coup is not the rational solution, then we should display the power of the citizenry and occupy the legislative chamber via the ballot box, restore its democratic functions and reorganize constitutional order.

Translated by Perry Svensson