Mon, Nov 30, 2015 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Consensus calls for legislative reform: Wang

The Legislative Yuan should always be included in the decisionmaking process when it comes to cross-strait policies, regardless of which political party is voted into the Presidential Office, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said in an interview with staff reporter Tzou Jiing-wen of the ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’), adding that the legislature’s exclusion from such processes would only deepen distrust among the public

With the system in place, the public would have leverage to enter the decisionmaking process.

For example, protests against the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the cross-strait service trade accord could have been avoided if the Legislative Yuan had a cross-strait affairs division to which the Executive Yuan and the Mainland Affairs Council would make periodic reports.

The reports would, to a degree, allow the pubic to learn about negotiations and what is being discussed, giving the government sufficient time to interact with the public on controversial points. The mechanism would allow the government to follow public expectation trends and would keep the public informed on what the government is up to.

LT: The issue of legislative oversight has received significant attention after the Ma-Xi meeting. What are your thoughts on how to improve such capabilities for the legislature?

Wang: The leaders of all the legislative caucuses have made proposals for legislative reforms as of late. From the issue of cross-strait affairs we can see that the oversight system in place is incapable of meeting the public’s needs.

The legislature’s capabilities must be reconsidered from the perspective of society’s expectations. I think the public is expecting the Legislative Yuan to enact reforms and to uplift the quality of democracy, and the most important step toward fulfilling such expectations is to expand the legislature’s ability to oversee and ensure that policy quality and effectiveness continue to improve.

While pundits often prioritize their focus on the legislative reforms to be enacted based on the effectiveness of legislative discussions and the talks between political parties, I feel these are background items that are not as pressing.

Reforms need to start from ensuring a healthy committee system that functions as intended, primary among which is the further fleshing out of the legislature’s oversight powers, and the need to establish the legislature’s powers to pull data from legislative meetings.

These powers would be used primarily in severe controversies, so that all voices could be heard in open debate.

The existing legal basis for cross-caucus negotiations was implemented in 1999 by then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative speaker Liu Sung-fan (劉松藩).

Despite multiple amendments, at their core, negotiations were never intended to take place during plenary sessions, but rather in meetings of each legislative committee to fully discuss legislation and to review budgets before forming a consensus to be voted on in plenary sessions.

The role of the legislative speaker was not intended to stand out as much as it does now. Unfortunately, the fighting between the pan-green and pan-blue camps has only intensified over the years, causing the Legislative Yuan to turn into the arena in which both political parties flex their muscles.

Once any piece of legislation enters a committee, it is subject to the will of the party to which the convener of that committee belongs, creating a quagmire in which it is difficult to have any policy debates.

The result is that committees are forced to send proposed legislation to closed-door discussions among the caucuses, and if discussions fail and they are put to a vote, the voting devolves into protests that prevent the process from coming to fruition.

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