Mon, Jan 21, 2008 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Outgoing sixth legislature will live in infamy

By Sihh Hsiao-kung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The outgoing sixth legislature could be described as "record-breaking" for a number of reasons, including the length of time for which it stalled the annual budget and its unprecedented attempts to impeach the president.

The three impeachment attempts against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) were unsuccessful because they were promoted by the pan-blue camp alone. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which held more than one-third of the seats in the legislature, was able to prevent the pan-blues from gathering the two-thirds majority required for the measures to pass.

The impeachment attempts were also undone in part because of a lack of consensus in the pan-blue camp.

While the Legislative Yuan is legally obliged to complete its review of the annual budget within a prescribed timeframe, the sixth legislature managed to delay the passage of the budget until the middle of June last year -- 197 days after the official deadline in late November 2006.

By the time the budget passed, it had been slashed by more than NT$34 billion (US$1 billion). In delaying its passage, lawmakers violated the Budget Act (預算法), which stipulates that requests must be completed in the legislature one month before the fiscal year starts and be promulgated by the president 15 days before that. The delay also resulted in a 44-day sit-in by the Taiwan Solidarity Union.

The main reason for the delay in the budget's passage was that the pan-blue camp at first refused to review it until the legislature considered its draft of the organic law of the Central Election Commission (CEC).

The latter was the cause of the longest stand-off between the government and the opposition and the most brawls in the sixth legislature.

The dispute centered on the composition of the 17-member CEC, which is tasked with preparing for and conducting elections and national referendums.

Under the version recently proposed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), 12 of the CEC's members would be nominated by political parties according to their representation in the legislature.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers staged fierce protests on the floor on several occasions to prevent a vote on the bill, arguing that its passage would give the pan-blue camp too much influence over the CEC.

Physical brawls between pan-green and pan-blue legislators led Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to issue three separate statements condemning the violence on the legislative floor.

During an infamous brawl on Jan. 19 last year, DPP Legislator Wang Shu-hui (王淑慧) threw her shoes at the speaker's podium.

The "shoe incident" captured the media's imagination and there were rumors that Wang's shoes had been auctioned online for NT$320,000, although this was later found to be untrue.

The photograph from Taiwan that was most widely disseminated last year was probably one that showed the doors to the legislative floor padlocked shut on May 8. This was done by the pan-green camp to prevent the third reading of the KMT's draft CEC law.

To maintain the dignity of his position, Wang Jin-pyng refused to use a side entrance and the standoff continued.

To prevent a repeat of the situation, the handles on the doors were later removed. However, DPP legislators instead blocked the doors with sofas and chairs. The draft has yet to pass.

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