Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Legislature prepares to begin a bruising session

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers are bracing themselves for what promises to be a contentious legislative session, due to begin tomorrow.

The caucuses of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) are calling for meetings today and tomorrow, hoping to reach a consensus over controversial bills.

In addition to the political wrangling between the ruling and opposition parties, much attention is expected to be focused on the role Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) will play in the legislature, where he has been serving as a lawmaker for 30 years, including six years as vice speaker and six years as speaker.

After his resounding defeat in the KMT chairmanship election and his resignation as KMT vice chairman, Wang has made it clear that he would back out of party operations.

His latest stance on the special arms procurement budget bill has raised political eyebrows, and set off an internal conflict within the pan-blue camp.

"The arms procurement package is not that much a battle between the pan-green and pan-blue alliances, but more a power struggle between the KMT and its long-term ally, the PFP," said Academia Sinica political analyst Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明). "The strong PFP Chairman James Soong [宋楚瑜] opposes the arms procurement plan, and he will play the more dominating role in controversial issues."

However, Soong's momentum could be dampened if more PFP members walk out of the party, because Soong's stout opposition to the arms budget is a desperate attempt to keep party members stay in the ranks, Hsu said.

Hsu said that he suspects the arms budget will pass the legislature in a broken-up form, with the Patriot anti-missile batteries passing first as part of the regular defense budget and the special budget for the other two items passing later.

If the budget eventually passes the legislature, Hsu said, Wang will definitely get the credit, but more pressure will be on Ma if it doesn't.

Although KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) says that he agrees with Wang about pushing the arms procurement bill through to the legislature's National Defense Committee for review, he blames the Executive Yuan for the stalled plan, saying that the DPP government should be held politically accountable for procrastinating with the legislation.

Ma said that the purchase items were first proposed in 1997 by the KMT administration, and then approved by the US government in 2001, but that the DPP government did not present the bill to the legislature until last year.

Ma has also called on the DPP government to deal with the failure of the country's first nationwide referendum, held in conjunction with last year's presidential election, before it can discuss the budget for the procurement of the Patriot batteries.

Afraid that Ma would back down and take a laissez-faire attitude toward the arms procurement package, PFP caucus whip Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) has threatened to support the DPP in pushing the party assets bill through to committee as a retaliatory measure.

The bill is designed to compel the KMT to return its stolen assets to the people and state coffers.

As further negotiations are still needed to iron out differences between the two parties, the KMT caucus plans to call a caucus meeting today and the PFP caucus is scheduled to meet tomorrow.

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