Sun, Dec 21, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Independents enjoy the limelight

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

When the opposition-dominated legislature on Friday vetoed a request by the Executive Yuan for a reconsideration of articles in the Referendum Law (公民投票法), the support of independent lawmakers was crucial.

Of the 10 members of the alliance of independents (無黨聯盟), seven voted against the Cabinet. There were only three exceptions: Walis-Pelin (瓦歷斯.貝林), who abstained, and Chu Hsin-yu (朱星羽) and Lu Shin-ming (呂新民), who were absent.

The 118 votes rejecting the Executive Yuan's request highlighted the importance of the alliance of independent legislators. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) alliance would have failed to veto the government's request without their contribution.

Opposition party caucuses had lobbied the independents hard to join them in opposing the Cabinet. On Tuesday the independents concluded at a closed-door meeting that they did not support reconsideration of the articles.

But the KMT-PFP alliance was not the only side looking for the independents' help.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus leader Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that Premier Yu Shyi-kun called each independent lawmaker before the vote to express the government's goodwill and hope that they would reconsider the law.

The DPP whip regretted that the independents instead voted with the KMT-PFP alliance.

"The DPP has no idea why they made this decision. The only reasonable explanation would be that deals were struck between the KMT, the PFP and the independent alliance in exchange for their votes," Chen said.

Independent Legislator Lin Pin-kuan (林炳坤) disputed this.

"Alliance members voted against the reconsideration, which suggested withdrawing the initiating of referendums by the legislature, because we considered that legislative initiating [of referendums] is imperative," Lin told the Taipei Times.

Lin, who represents Penghu County, said that the initiating of referendums by the legislature empowers lawmakers who represent small electorates, such as Penghu, to initiate referendums that would improve their constituents' civil liberties and general well-being.

Lin played down speculation that his alliance vetoed the reconsideration out of revenge over DPP opposition to ward and village chiefs becoming salaried officers.

The influence of independent lawmakers had increased following the decision of the KMT and the PFP to form an alliance, political analyst Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said.

The alliance of independents comprises 10 legislators, only two less than the number boasted by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU).

The alliance could swing a vote while the DPP and the TSU were in the minority in the legislature, Hsu said.

Confrontation between the blue and green camps gave non-aligned legislators a chance to bargain and influence legislative procedure, although present legislative processes left independent lawmakers with less space to influence party politics, he said.

But Hsu believed that the influence of unaligned lawmakers would end after legislative elections next December at the latest.

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