The presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 14 will force mass resignations in President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Cabinet twice before a new government is formed on May 20, a Central Personnel Administration (CPA) official said yesterday.
Holding the presidential election — usually held in March — in tandem with the legislative election creates an unprecedented four-month gap before inauguration on May 20, the longest period since the nation began direct presidential elections in 1996.
In the absence of legislation on government operations during the post-election period, Central Personnel Administration Secretary-General Chang Nien-chung (張念中) said constitutional practices and democratic norms would be the principles followed regardless of who wins the presidential election.
Regardless of whether Ma is re-elected or loses to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) or People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), the entire Cabinet will resign twice between Jan. 14 and May 20. The first time will be ahead of the eighth legislature, which convenes on Feb. 1, and the second will be before the president-elect is sworn in on May 20, Chang said.
In line with constitutional practice, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) should lead his Cabinet members to resign en masse before Feb. 1 “as a formality in a show of respect for the new legislature,” even though he is under no obligation under the Constitution to do so, Chang said.
As result of a 1997 amendment, which took away the legislature’s power to confirm the appointment of the premier by the president, the Constitution does not require the premier to resign after a new legislature is elected.
“However, it has been established through ‘precedent’ since 1999 for Cabinet members to resign en masse before the swearing in of a new legislature — until that was somewhat challenged in 2008,” Chang said.
In January 1999, then-premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) offered to resign before the then newly elected fourth legislature convened. Then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) accepted his resignation and immediately reappointed Siew as premier.
Siew was the nation’s first premier to be appointed by the president without legislative confirmation.
The precedent set by Siew in 1999 was followed by premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) in January 2002, when the fifth legislature was elected and by premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) in January 2005 following the election of the sixth legislature, both during the DPP administration.
In January 2008 after the seventh legislature was elected, then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) rejected the resignation by then- premier Chang Chun-hsiung, and Chang then stayed put in a bid to establish another constitutional practice, citing several reasons, including that a legislative election does not require the mandatory resignation of the Cabinet following the 1997 amendment, and the maintenance of political stability.
Chen said the new practice he established was to avoid a situation in which a premier needs to resign twice in the space of three months and 19 days from Feb. 1 and May 20 as a result of the 2005 constitutional amendment that lengthened legislators’ terms of office from three years to four years, put into practice since the seventh legislature. That amendment put the legislative elections in step with that of the president, but maintained the difference in the dates of their inaugurations.