Recent events suggest that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is getting better at playing the political game of cat and mouse at the Legislative Yuan, as it makes calculated moves and watches the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) play into its game.
Following the results of the four referendums last month, which all went its way, the DPP has wasted no time, bypassing a series of committee reviews and forwarding the government’s budget for fiscal 2022 to a second reading at the legislature.
The move was met with outrage from the KMT, which had been holding up the review process. Caught off guard, it called the move a “degeneration of the legislature” and a “foul move entailing six mistakes.”
It is amusing that while the DPP seemed to be taking a step back by engaging in interparty negotiations with the KMT before the gavel on the matter was brought down, it has, in return, made the KMT lift its embargo by proposing to send the budget bill back for committee review.
The budget might now clear the legislative process in an extraordinary session ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday later this month.
The DPP’s ingenious sleight of hand “disarmed” the KMT, removing all impediments standing in the way of the review.
After its first taste of success, the DPP used the same ploy to submit a draft amendment to the Local Government Act (地方制度法) to a second reading, causing KMT lawmakers to occupy the legislative speaker’s podium in protest and Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) to adjourn the session.
Similar to the budget bill, the draft amendment is to be sent back for committee review after interparty negotiations.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) even said that if his party really wanted to push for the second reading, it could have rallied its caucus and pushed it through, as members have already been taking shifts at the Legislative Yuan for three nights in a row.
Separately, Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien (林智堅) proposed merging Hsinchu city and county to create a special municipality, but later made the surprising announcement that he would not run for “Greater Hsinchu” mayor.
The unexpected move has silenced the KMT’s criticisms that the DPP is seeking the merger to further its interests.
However, some senior KMT members, such as Hsinchu County Commissioner Yang Wen-ke (楊文科) and Broadcasting Corp of China chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康), have since kept on insisting that the merger proposal is a ploy to further Lin’s career — a logic that is a slap in their own faces.
Changhua County Commissioner Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) also promptly sent a proposal to upgrade Changhua to a special municipality to the Ministry of the Interior, a classic act of the KMT keeping the governing party busy while hatching another scheme.
Nevertheless, Wang’s move has only served to showcase the necessity of amending the Local Government Act.
The reason for the DPP daring to bypass committee reviews and push for two second readings in a row has legal muscle behind it.
Article 8, Section 2 of the Act Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power (立法院職權行使法) states that a bill can be sent directly to the second reading if it is proposed by committee members in attendance and more than 20 lawmakers sponsor it.
Being in charge of the executive branch, controlling more than half the seats in the legislature and getting the results it wanted in the four referendums, the DPP has amassed a certain degree of dominion. It has crushed the KMT in significant ways; the KMT and its chairman have suffered severe blows.
After being absent from the political stage for some years, People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has taken to Facebook to express his opinions on some recent events.
After the uproar of the budget review, Soong said that the DPP had finally acquiesced to reconsider the budget after excoriation by the opposition party and the media, but he did not seem to understand that it was a trick pulled by the DPP.
Soong also commented on Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) attempt to cut the funding earmarked for the elderly on the Double Ninth Festival, a move that was rejected by the Taipei City Council twice — the second time after it was sent back to the council for reconsideration — and is now with the Executive Yuan, where Ko seeks to have the rejection declared invalid.
Soong said that the “conventional way of taking political responsibility” for the rejection in a democratic regime is either “to accept the verdict or resign.”
According to the — long abolished — self-government code of municipal cities (直轄市自治法), Ko’s resignation would be unnecessary and filing complaints would be futile, leaving Ko with no choice but to accept the verdict.
In the post, Soong also focused his ire on the passing of a bill recommending the government change the name of the country from “the Republic of China” to “the Republic of Taiwan.”
Soong found it infuriating that the motion was proposed by Tainan City Councilor Tsai Yu-hui (蔡育輝) of the KMT and, even worse, that the party was trying to speak up for him, saying: “We understand where he is coming from.”
Soong said the proposal was a “cardinal mistake.”
However, real democracy is when city councilors have the freedom to say and vote at will in the council, without needing to “bear responsibilities” for their decisions and statements when outside it.
The connection between the KMT’s party-state mindset and democracy remains blurry.
When Soong and former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) lost in the 2004 presidential election, their instigation of the public to seek an annulment of the election was a real act of anti-democracy.
By using words like “commitment and goal of democracy,” Soong showed that his concept of democracy has long been out of date. Acadmics such as Joseph Schumpeter, Robert Dahl and Samuel Huntington have formulated more timely concepts.
Democracy has transcended rationalism, utopianism and idealism, and has entered the realm of simple general knowledge.
Taiwan’s democracy bears witness to this.
Chin Heng-wei is a political commentator.
Translated by Rita Wang
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