Sat, Feb 06, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Analysis: Taiwan’s legislators act like school-yard brawlers

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Then-Democratic Progressive Party legislator Lin Chung-mo, right, is caught by other legislators as he falls off a podium after an argument broke out between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators and opposition legislators over the draft organic law for the Central Election Committee at the legislature on Jan 19, 2007.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Mention the Taiwanese legislature to a foreigner and chances are that he or she will mention the brawls between opposing camps that frequently take place on the legislative floor or in committee meetings.

Over the years, images of brawling legislators have been broadcast around the world, shaming the nation’s politicians.

On Sept. 27, 2005, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators struggled with their Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) counterparts over the Organic Act of the National Communications Commission (國家通訊傳播委員會組織法) on the legislative floor, injuring then-KMT legislator Chang Sho-wen’s (張碩文) eye and leaving former DPP legislator Lee Ming-hsien (李明憲) with scratches on his face and knees.

Then, on Jan. 19, 2007, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) was almost hit by a shoe as DPP legislators blocked the KMT from pushing through the Organic Act of the Central Election Commission (中央選舉委員會組織法), and on April 23 last year, the Internal Administration Committee’s meeting was adjourned shortly after beginning because DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) slapped KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) after Lee called Chiu a “shrew.”

The latest legislative clash erupted on Jan. 18 as the KMT tried to push through a disputed ­amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法).

During the review, DPP legislators tried to block Wang and Vice Legislative Speaker Tseng Yung-­chuan (曾永權) from putting the articles to a vote, attempting to pull Tseng off from the speaker’s podium and snatch his microphone.

Several KMT legislators pinned down DPP Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) because she was getting too close to Tseng, while DPP legislators Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) tussled with KMT Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), scratching Hsieh’s face.

As a result of the latest clash, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) proposed the idea of introducing a Sergeant-at-Arms — used in the UK House of Commons, the US Congress and other legislative bodies — to maintain order.

Although the legislature is guarded by police officers, no laws authorize the speaker or committee heads to discipline unruly legislators by removing them from legislative meetings.

Pundits were skeptical about King’s proposal, however, mainly because he was the last person who should launch such a proposal.

“It makes sense if the proposal were initiated by Wang, but the idea should never have been proposed by the secretary-general of a political party,” Soochow ­University political science professor Luo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said by telephone.

Luo questioned King’s motive, saying that it was evident that the KMT was trying to exercise its clout over the legislature.

“The KMT is trying to completely shut down opposing voices in the legislature and force the opposition to take to the streets, thus giving the KMT the opportunity to label the opposition [a violent party],” Luo said. “This is a conspiracy theory, but it makes sense.”

Legislative watchdog Citizen Congress Watch (CCW) secretary-general Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) expressed a similar view, alleging that the KMT was trying to control the legislature and “rape public opinion.”

“The legislature is not a subordinate organization of any party,” Ho said.

Political commentator Shih Cheng-feng (施政峰) expressed the concern that a Sergeant-at-Arms might become the Presidential Office’s tool to control legislators.

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