In a move that could establish a constitutional precedent, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday conditionally agreed to an opposition-led proposal that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should present a national report to the legislature.
The motion proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the People First Party (PFP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) was referred for cross-party negotiations in the legislature, pending consensus on details relating to how and when the president will deliver the report.
After weeks of refusing since the opposition parties first made the proposal to force Ma to “come before the public” and explain his decisions on issues that have caused much public ire, the KMT backtracked from its earlier refusal to support the proposal.
Focus has now turned to disagreements over the arrangements relating to the report, specifically whether Ma will answer questions from lawmakers.
Hours after the decision was made in the legislature, KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) issued a statement to clarify the KMT’s position, insisting that Ma would not take questions from lawmakers, regardless of the proposed format.
To do so would confuse the roles of the president and premier as stipulated in the Constitution and therefore blur the constitutional lines separating the duties of those two positions, Lin said.
If lawmakers had the right to question the president, then the president would be serving the same basic role as the premier, which would violate the spirit of the Constitution, which stipulates that the Executive Yuan is responsible to the legislature and lawmakers have the right to question the premier and Cabinet members, he added.
The proposal was based on Additional Article 4 of the Constitution, which states that the legislature may hear a report on the state of the nation by the president when it convenes each year and Article 15 of the Act Governing Exercise of Rights of the Legislative Yuan (立法院職權行使法) regarding the rules and procedures related to the initiation of proposals.
In accordance with Article 15-4 of the act, after the president presents a report on the state of the nation, lawmakers can submit questions about its content and the president can then present a supplementary report in response to those questions.
Details on which lawmakers and in which order they are allowed to ask the president questions are to be decided by cross-party negotiation, the article says.
Earlier yesterday when the legislature started to discuss the proposal, opposition lawmakers called on Ma to accept the invitation.
“President Ma has said that he will attempt to establish his legacy during his second term. This is the perfect opportunity. He can set a constitutional precedent that the president can also be held accountable commensurate with his authority,” PFP Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) said.
TSU Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) said Ma made decisions on issues ranging from the proposed relaxation of restrictions on imports of US beef containing trace amounts of the feed additive ractopamine, the “one country, two areas (一國兩區)” concept, policies to raise fuel price and electricity rates, and many others, but -declined to say anything other than “thanks” when questioned by the press about those policies.
DPP legislative caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said his party would demand that Ma answer every question from lawmakers directly.