Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers blame system for high premier turnover

By Hsieh Chun-lin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Chun-yi attends a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee in Taipei on Oct. 29.

Photo: Hsieh Chun-lin, Taipei Times

The high turnover of premiers is indicative of constitutional flaws, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers said on Thursday.

The remarks came after Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), asked to comment on reports that Premier William Lai (賴清德) intends to resign over the DPP’s losses in the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections, quoted former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) as saying that in Taiwan, a premier serves an average of 1.3 years before being dismissed and that the turnover has been detrimental to good governance over the past two decades.

“This is a constitutional crisis for Taiwan and frankly no president can do a good job with the Constitution the nation has,” Ko said.

In the current semi-presidential system, the president names the premier without having to seek the approval of the Legislative Yuan. This has led to criticism that the president enjoys all the power and does not have to answer to the legislature, while the premier has no real power, but must bear the brunt of opposition to major policies of the administration.

DPP caucus convener Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said that institutional factors have contributed to the high turnover rate of premiers.

Presidents often fire premiers to show that they are responding to the public’s demands, he said, citing as examples the resignations of former premiers Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) after Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and the KMT’s electoral losses in 2014 respectively.

“Things of this nature are becoming a regular occurrence worldwide, and the problem should be addressed on the institutional level,” Lee said.

There is a global trend of people quickly losing patience with their governments, and presidents now have to seize the first years of their terms as a narrow window of opportunity to get things done, DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said.

“As polls have shown, presidents and premiers have to respond to the public quickly,” he said.

The high turnover of premiers is counterproductive, as each incoming premier has to take the time to familiarize themselves with ongoing issues and the intricacies of government before being useful, DPP Legislator Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) said.

“Ko did not need to look at the central government to know this; his own city government is as good an example as any,” he said.

A parliamentary system could be better for Taiwan, KMT Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) said.

“The semi-presidential system is to blame for the current situation, in which the president has power without accountability and the premier has accountability without power,” he said.

Like voters in other democracies, Taiwanese expect more from their government than before, but the nation’s bureaucracy is struggling to operate under fiscal and personnel constraints, KMT caucus secretary-general William Tseng (曾銘宗) said.

Public frustration due to unmet expectations and “institutional problems unique to Taiwan” are the causes of the rapid turnover of the nation’s premiers, not flaws with the Constitution, he said.

The problem lies not with the Constitution, but inept presidents, KMT Legislator John Wu (吳志揚) said, adding that a weak president would need to sacrifice premiers to bolster their credibility.

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