Saturday, July 10, 2010

Our supine legislature kowtows =UPDATED=

Taiwan News hits the mark again:
With 74 of 113 seats compared to the DPP's 33 slots, the KMT holds an overwhelming majority and need have no fear that passage of the ECFA would not be endangered from article by article review or discussion.

Surely one objective is to short-circuit the real possibility that an extended article by article review of the vaguely worded ECFA would reveal to our citizens just how much the pact has compromised "the people's interests" and denigrated "Taiwan's dignity."

Second, Ma may intend to block the setting of a precedent for detailed legislative review and pave the way for "efficient" ratification of future agreements between the KMT and the PRC's ruling Chinese Communist Party, perhaps including a "peace agreement" that will be functionally an unification pact, without interference from opposition legislators or civil society.

The acquiescence of the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan in being excluded from pre-negotiation authorization or post-signing review essentially gives Ma and the KMT government a blank check to carry out any and all negotiations with the PRC without any legislative check and balance.

The intention is to entirely exclude Taiwan's parliament and Taiwan's citizens from any role in future KMT-CCP talks, in a similar manner to how the fates of Hong Kong and Macau were "resolved" in the 1980s and 1990s.
The KMT-controlled legislature voted Thursday to send the bill directly to the legislature without a Committee review, meaning that there will be no line-by-line review of the bill. The DPP then withdrew from the legislature in protest after one of those patented brawls. KMT Speaker Wang was particularly ironic:
The DPP caucus later challenged Wang’s announcement, with DPP Secretary-General Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) saying the speaker had failed to call for a vote even though the DPP caucus voiced opposition to the KMT caucus’ motion.

Wang stood by his decision when asked for comment yesterday.

“As the speaker standing on the podium, I did not hear anyone express his or her opposition [to the motion]. [In fact], I could not hear anything at all because of the chaos in front of me,” Wang said. “If I had heard something, I would have dealt with [the opposition] in accordance with legislative procedures.”
The feckless legislature, combined with suppression of referendum attempts, means that there is now no real democratic oversight of the ECFA agreement. The long struggle by the KMT to prevent democratic oversight, as Taiwan News suggests, implies that the KMT is creating a precedent for future China treaties. Note also that the KMT had ECFA signed by the quasi-governmental SEF-ARATS mechanism, avoided the WTO mechanism that had overwhelming support in polls. In other words, any kind of supervising of this agreement by any outside mechanism was obviated.

Even the minimal oversight of Taiwan government's bureaucracy was ignored. Two years ago, when the international media was "shocked" that a "pro-independence" politician was picked to head up the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), I wrote:
Folks, that is not a signal that the new President is going to take a middle ground in China policy. Instead it is a signal that MAC will not be an important player in cross-strait contacts.
As we saw a few posts below, MAC's main role is now putting out polls that show that Taiwan's electorate supports ECFA.

All the politicking last week to prevent legislative review by defining ECFA as a treaty and not an agreement. All the remarks from Speaker Wang that the legislative review was possible and that the legislature had reviewed other economic agreements before. All the noise and fuss, signifying nothing.

Moments like this show that the election of 2004, in which the DPP failed to gain a majority in the legislature even though it was the largest party, because of faulty political strategy, was a watershed that is not often identified in discussions of turning points in the island's history. A similar event in the 1990s, when the switch of two aboriginal legislator votes on the second ballot prevented the DPP's Shih Ming-te from becoming Speaker was also important, as was the disastrous "reform" that reduced the number of seats in the legislature. The KMT's re-absorption of its errant members from the PFP was also key. Now we are reaping the whirlwind from the public's zombie-like neglect of party politics at the local level. Poll after poll shows the public is completely unsatisfied with Taiwan's worthless legislature, but voters keep taking the cash and sending the same people back. That has to stop.

Analysis from the US a few months ago wrote as though it was really believed that Wang would engage in oversight of ECFA. I wondered what Wang's actual game was the other day. Now we know.

Theatre.

As Michael Fahey remarked in SCMP last week, Taiwan is a society that prizes consensus. It will be interesting to see how this long struggle by the KMT to prevent social consensus on ECFA is reflected in the polls in 2010, 2011 (legislature) and 2012 (president).
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10 comments:

Marc said...

For an interesting comparison to Taiwan's useless parliament, read "Tea Party in Sonora" in this month's Harper's and see how Americans are reaping the whirlwind in Arizona.

Michael Turton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
STOP Ma said...

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Moments like this show that the election of 2004, in which the DPP failed to gain a majority in the legislature even though it was the largest party, because of faulty political strategy, was a watershed that is not often identified in discussions of turning points in the island's history.


As I've mentioned time and time again on this blog and others, this indeed was THE pivotal moment. Imagine -- just imagine -- if President Chen had had the backing of a DPP legislative majority.

It is also noteworthy that during that time, the KMT were full-steam into pulling every undemocratic maneuver to help efforts in the so-called "Truth Commission" to investigate the laughable possibility that the Chen assassination attempt was a political stunt to win the election. And let's not forget the criminally undemocratic actions of Chiu Yi and friends during that time.

The people of Taiwan ignored these and other egregious affronts to democracy by the KMT. They essentially made Chen a lame-duck president for 4 years.

Sadly, the Taiwanese have nobody to blame but themselves.

The icing on the cake was to elect PandaMa in 2008.
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Anonymous said...

The people of Taiwan ignored these and other egregious affronts to democracy by the KMT. They essentially made Chen a lame-duck president for 4 years.Sadly, the Taiwanese have nobody to blame but themselves.

You and others say the same things, that the people have ignored... have no one to blame, etc., etc.., and some counter that with the fact that at the local level the patronage is persuasive and lucrative and people are more concerned with protecting their personal interests...

To this, should we not add 60 years (or longer - should we include the Japanese, the Qing?) of shaping the populace' attitude to have such utter, UTTER contempt for government that no one could give a damn anymore who sits at Ketagalan Blvd.?

Such resignation is dangerous to say the least, but perhaps that's all part of the KMT strategy. An indifferent population makes no demands on checks and balances.

mike said...

Contempt for government?! Ha!!! If only...

Leftie said...

The feckless legislature, combined with suppression of referendum attempts, means that there is now no real democratic oversight of the ECFA agreement.

Well, if it does play out like that, in a little over 18 months time, both legislature and president elections will have been held. The DPP will get their chance then to take power and can simply overturn the agreement, without any oversight or review if they want. Right now, it's just mountains and molehills.

les said...

Theater? Oh I don't know, maybe it was a ransom demand.

Michael Turton said...

I thought about that, les, but nothing has come out about such a deal. Have you heard anything?

les said...

No, I haven't heard about anything but two things make me suspicious:

1. Wang is all about money, not ideology
2. It's not in Wang's basic set of interests to go along with (rival) Ma's plans without some benefit for himself

Conventional wisdom suggests that either their ultimate goals are in more accord than I think, or that an accommodation was made.

Adam said...

“As the speaker standing on the podium, I did not hear anyone express his or her opposition [to the motion]. [In fact], I could not hear anything at all because of the chaos in front of me,” Wang said.

Not very familiar with procedure in Taiwan's legislature, but does this mean that anytime the KMT wants to ignore any legislative motions by the DPP all they have to do is...talk louder?