More than 50 of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) 64 legislators were recently fined by the party for failing to vote in accordance with party lines in the legislative session that concluded on Jan. 15.
Following a budget cut passed in November last year that drastically slashed each of the 113 lawmakers’ annual subsidies by NT$860,000 (US$28,430), a total of 52 KMT legislators were recently given fines ranging from NT$10,000 to NT$330,000 for their “disobedience” in, or abstention from votes on various legislative items in the four-month session.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) — who do not participate in party caucus operations — were exempt from the fines, along with 10 other legislators.
The largest fine, NT$330,000, was levied on Legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑), while lawmakers Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟), Chen Chao-ming (陳超明), Chang Chia-chun (張嘉郡), Lin Kuo-cheng (林國正), Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞), Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖), Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) and Lu Chia-chen (盧嘉辰), were each given fines of more than NT$200,000.
Legislators Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), Lin Ming-chen (林明溱), Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔), Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟), Sra Kacaw (鄭天財), Lo Ming-tsai (羅明才), Yang Ying-hsiung (楊應雄) and Cheng Ru-fen (鄭汝芬) were each fined about NT$100,000.
The fines — totalling more than NT$3 million in total — set a record for the highest fines imposed on lawmakers in the legislature’s history.
They were handed down according to KMT caucus regulations, which stipulate that lawmakers who fail to comply with priority mobilization orders can be fined NT$10,000 per vote, and a maximum of NT$50,000 per day and NT$100,000 per month.
The KMT caucus started strictly executing its disciplinary regulations last year when it struggled to garner enough support from party legislators to relax the import ban on US beef products containing residue of the feed additive ractopamine.
Sources say the party adopted a “no remission” stance in disciplining lawmakers who did not vote according to party lines or who abstained from voting, a stringent policy that has seen even deputy KMT caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) punished for failing to vote on a legislative proposal because he was too preoccupied with urging other party lawmakers to cast their votes.
The disciplinary measures have caused an outcry among KMT legislators.
Ting said the regulations should only be applied to major legislative items since in his opinion the majority of legislative proposals submitted by the Democratic Progressive Party in the previous session were trivial.
“Some of us were fined simply because we left the assembly hall to go to the bathroom or take telephone calls and missed the vote. Is the party caucus trying to rip us off?” Ting asked, adding that the strict policy could cause more divisions within the party.
Comparing the party’s acting caucus whips with the Jinyiwei (錦衣衛) — the imperial military secret police during China’s Ming Dynasty — Hsieh said that if caucus whips were given so much power, the party may as well scrap the chairmanship post.
A KMT legislator, who requested anonymity, said that since the party caucus often issued a priority mobilization order only one day before a legislative meeting, it was almost impossible for him and other lawmakers in southern Taiwan to cancel important local events at the last minute.
He added that he was planning to quit the party caucus.
In response to the growing criticism, KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said no one should be exempt from party regulations approved during caucus meetings as a matter of fairness and discipline.
“However, the regulations are open to further deliberation if party lawmakers find them imperfect or too rigorous,” Lin said, adding that lawmakers who refused to pay the fines could lose their right to be nominated for elected offices, as stipulated by the party’s rules.