The election of legislators with criminal or gangster backgrounds, or massive conflicts of interest as chairmen of the legislature's 12 standing committees has become a ritual of every legislative session; yesterdays elections for committee chairmen were no exception.
Independent lawmaker Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), who forfeited his convener's seat on the Economics and Energy Committee in the last session to calm an outcry over his business ties, managed to obtain the berth again.
Yen, convicted last year by a trial court of corruption, attempted murder and obstruction of justice, owns several quarrying companies in the region.
The Ministry of Economics Affairs is the highest regulatory agency on the nation's rivers and riverbeds where quarrying operations are carried out.
Last October, DPP lawmaker Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) told a news conference that some of her colleagues, whose identities she refused to reveal, were behind illegal quarrying operations in central Taiwan.
Meanwhile DPP lawmaker Lin Wen-lang (林文郎) and PFP colleague Chen Chih-bin (陳志彬) were both elected as the conveners of the Finance Committee despite their deep involvement in the securities industry.
The committee, normally the most popular, is responsible for supervising the Ministry of Finance. Allegations abound that over the years Committee members have sought to pressure the ministry to adopt measures favorable to their portfolios as well as that of their family and friends.
After election, Lin and Chen said they would soon sever their business ties but offered no guarantee as how they would make good on their pledge.
There are three conveners for each of the standing committees. As they wield substantial influence over legislation by controlling the agenda of committee meetings, their opinions carry great weight with policy planners, whose agency falls under the oversight of the corresponding committee.
One of the most notorious beneficiaries of the committee chairmanship system in recent years has been former independent lawmaker Lo Fu-chu (羅福助), a convicted gangster who owns Tashin Securities, and is widely believed to have used his position on the committee to engage in many financial irregularities.
In line with cross-party agreements, the DPP won 13 convener seats; the KMT 10 seats; the PFP 8 seats; and the Non-Partisan Alliance two seats.