Controversy over a much-disputed bill aimed at reorganizing the country's election oversight body left the legislature at an impasse yesterday, once again stalling the government's 2007 budget request and miring negotiations over a major arms-procurement package.
The legislature yesterday held an extraplenary session to review an amendment to the Organic Law of the Central Election Commission (CEC, 中選會組織法) sponsored by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the government's budget.
To secure a majority for passage of the CEC amendment, the pan-blue camp has held the budget hostage since last year, leaving the government without funding at the start of the fiscal year.
The dispute over the CEC bill has led to angry confrontations between lawmakers, many times turning violent, as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers blocked voting on the amendment.
The DPP has accused the KMT of trying to thwart its plan to hold a referendum during next year's presidential election on recovering assets stolen by the KMT during the Martial Law era, while the KMT has said the CEC bill is necessary to remove what it describes as "partisan bias" in the election committee.
Last week, the DPP caucus offered a compromise to the pan-blues, saying they would allow the CEC amendment to pass on condition that the pan-blues approved the budget for an arms procurement deal that has been stalled, slashed or frozen during preliminary review for several years. But the proposed compromise failed to break the impasse yesterday.
The budget request for the weapons systems currently includes NT$3.59 billion (US$109 million) to upgrade the three existing PAC-2 Patriot anti-missile batteries, NT$11.3 billion to purchase three new PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries, NT$6.13 billion to buy 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, NT$4.5 billion to assess the feasibility of purchasing diesel-powered submarines and NT$16 billion to procure 66 F-16C/D Falcon fighter aircraft.
During the previous stages of the preliminary review, the pan-blue camp has slashed the budget for the purchase of PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries, cut the funds for the submarine assessment study to NT$200 million and froze the funds put aside for the F-16 C/D fighters.
While the KMT agreed to talk with the DPP about restoring the arms budget, the PFP decided to stand its ground, bringing a motion that called for cutting the entire budget for the US weapons systems.
After the fruitless negotiations, lawmakers again decided to postpone the meeting until next Thursday, as they have done the past two weeks.
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