In comments he made last week advocating constitutional reform, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) called for constitutional amendments that, apart from the question of absentee voting, have long been an area of consensus between the pan-blue and pan-green political camps. However, this did not stop him from being accused of having made some political calculations of his own. In truth, politicians all have their own calculations, and what of it?
As Chu enters the fray, the main and very stubborn resistance he must face comes from the clique around President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his close ally, National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰).
Chu has taken up the old theme of transcending the blue-green paradigm. He is following the example set many years ago by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), a former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, by proposing the notion of a consensus between those in and outside the party, and using this notion to stabilize the overall situation outside the party. It could even be seen as an appeal for help in rebalancing the various forces inside the KMT.
Let it not be forgotten that it is the Ma-King clique — with them clinging to the “establishment safety net” — who constitute the tumor that the nation as a whole, regardless of party affiliation, needs to get rid of.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), especially, needs to be cautious. It must grasp the prevailing mood of transcending blue and green. It must be broadminded. It must not go back to the old pattern of belligerency and narrow scheming, which the public is heartily sick of.
No matter who proposes things, as long as those things are good for the country, what is right is right. Every politician has his own calculations, but what does it matter as long as those concerns do not get in the way of the national interest?
The DPP and the KMT are both in favor of a Cabinet system to begin with, so surely they are not going to oppose it now, just because it gives Chu a chance to halt the KMT’s decline.
Have there not been enough lessons already about where this kind of narrow scheming can lead? When the Legislative Yuan approved the seventh round of amendments to the Constitution in 2004, the two major parties each had their ulterior motives.
The legislature passed the amendments with 89 percent of legislators in attendance, and 99.5 percent of those lawmakers voted for the changes. The amendments included setting a very high threshold for further constitutional amendments, halving the number of seats in the Legislative Yuan and introducing single-member legislative constituencies with each voter being able to cast two votes — one for a candidate and the other for a party.
This is a system that is very favorable to big parties. The following year, the now-defunct national assembly voted to approve the amendments, whose legacy of trouble remains today and which have proven to be quite disastrous.
The real lesson to be learned is that it is acceptable for politicians to have their own calculations as long as they do not run counter to the interests of the nation.
That last round of constitutional amendments was clearly instituted for selfish motives, with the major parties acting in collusion. This time around they had better work hand-in-hand again, but this time to redeem themselves.
Christian Fan Jiang is deputy convener of the Northern Taiwan Society’s legal and political group.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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