The nation must retain system of government

By James Wang 王景弘  / 

Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 8

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) has been nicknamed Gongdaobo (公道伯, “Uncle Fairness”) because he was said to have maintained a good relationship with lawmakers from all parties during his terms as legislative speaker.

Wang was the “king of political maneuvers” and he always remained on the sidelines when his KMT colleagues clashed with lawmakers from other parties.

However, he was excited when he heard President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) call for amendments to the Constitution, saying that anyone who runs for president is opposed to a parliamentary system. He supports such a system and has proposed inviting experts from Japan and Australia to discuss the issue.

Parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential systems all have their strengths and weaknesses.

If all presidential hopefuls are opposed to a parliamentary system, then anyone who has no hope of running for president, but is both an opportunist and adept at political maneuvering — or any party that is too small to have a shot at the presidency — is likely to favor a parliamentary system.

Wang’s claim that many KMT lawmakers support his call for a parliamentary system might have revealed the party’s secret: As its ill-gotten party assets have been seized, the “one China” line has been denounced, the chances that it will regain the presidency is slim and so it is hoping that if the number of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative seats shrinks, a parliamentary system might give the KMT a chance to regain power with the help of smaller parties.

The KMT’s pro-China faction upholds the old system, always echoes Beijing’s strategies and is hostile toward Japan. It is surprising that it has not opposed Wang’s proposal of learning from the Japanese parliamentary system. Its hunger for power is evident.

Britain is the typical example of a parliamentary system and there is an infinite number of books on the subject. Why would Wang need to mobilize so much manpower to discuss this again? Besides, parliamentary systems such as Japan have followed on from imperial regimes.

In the late years of the Qing Dynasty, reformist Liang Qichao (梁啟超) and other royalists also learned from Japan as they opposed the establishment of a republic in the hopes of keeping the Qing emperor through a constitutional monarchy.

The US established a presidential system after its declaration of independence, so as not to waste any national resources on a king or royalty. With its separation of the three branches of government, power and accountability are in balance and the government system operates stably.

Taiwan has learned from the US’ democratic system and its constitutional system is a semi-presidential system that leans toward a presidential system, and this system has run smoothly over the past two decades.

Since presidents are directly elected by voters, they should hold themselves accountable to their voters. We should never tolerate that the president is turned into a figurehead, or allow legislators with a bad image to engage in factionalism and form a Cabinet with powers that exceed presidential powers.

Moreover, direct presidential elections highlight Taiwan’s national status and the emergence of its new legitimacy. Since the length of a presidential term is fixed, it is easy to look into a president’s accountability when their term ends and this is one of the advantages over the instability of a parliamentary system.

Wang knows that after Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party split in 1993, the Japanese Cabinet underwent a turbulent period, not to mention that before World War II the Cabinet was controlled by militarist forces that brought Japan into a catastrophic war.

James Wang is a senior journalist.

Translated by Eddy Chang