Sat, Jan 20, 2007 - Page 1 News List

CEC amendment leads to gridlock, legislative chaos

DAY OF INACTIVITY No bills were passed yesterday as lawmakers fought over the reading of a bill that would alter the make up of the electoral commission

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature ground to a halt amid scuffles yesterday, the last day of the current session, marking the first time in the legislature's history that the central government's fiscal budget remained stalled after the fiscal year had begun.

To enable a review of the fiscal budget bill, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers had already prepared a motion to convene an extraordinary session scheduled for next week.

The reason behind the paralysis was an amendment designed to select members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in proportion to the number of legislative seats held by each party.

Currently the members of the CEC are nominated by the premier and appointed by the president.

Dozens of lawmakers, who had occupied the floor from 8am, turned violent at 2:50pm when Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) called a vote to determine whether to start the second reading of the bill.

"Negotiation," shouted female DPP lawmakers, while male DPP lawmakers Cheng Kuo-chung (鄭國忠), Chen Chin-de (陳金德) and others climbed up to the podium in an attempt to thwart the vote.

Dashing to the podium, Non-Partisan Solidarity Union lawmakers Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), Tsai Hau (蔡豪) and several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers jostled through the crowd to protect Wang, while female KMT lawmakers yelled: "Vote, Vote, protect the speaker."

The amendment is strongly supported by KMT lawmakers, who made it the first item on the agenda and have refused to compromise on its content during several days of negotiations.

DPP lawmakers wanted the government's fiscal 2007 budget bill to be the first bill reviewed, but the KMT placed it 28th out of 75 bills.

"KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has to take full responsibility for [yesterday's] chaos. Does he consider protecting the KMT's assets more important than the government's budget?" DPP Legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said.

The DPP accuses Ma of being the mastermind behind the amendment, as KMT Secretary-General Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) had said during the negotiations that Ma wanted the amendment to be the only bill to pass the legislature.

The KMT's intention to establish a CEC commission with its members being selected in accordance with the ratio of legislative seats held by each party is aimed at taking control of the commission using the pan-blue camp's legislative majority, Ker said.

Earlier yesterday, Wu said the bill was necessary, as the CEC has become tainted by partisan bias.

Wu was referring to a referendum held on March 20, 2004 -- the same day as the last presidential election -- which the pan-blue camp believes shored up support for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The first round of wrestling, which lasted for about an hour, forced Wang to call a recess using a microphone already broken by lawmakers.

During the recess, DPP lawmakers secured the chamber's doors with curtains in a bid to prevent the speaker entering to continue the vote, but it didn't work.

When Wang eventually entered, and had struggled to make his way to the microphone to call a vote on the first article of the amendment, another scuffle broke out.

DPP Legislator Wang Shu-hui (王淑慧) threw four shoes at the speaker, her own and two provided by Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲).

One of the shoes nearly hit Wang on the forehead.

As of press time, six lawmakers had been injured and a doctor was called to the floor to treat them.

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