Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Farm Associations: Veto Effort Fails

A few weeks ago I blogged on the farm association issue. This recently resurfaced when pan-Blue lawmakers relaxed the already loose laws governing the associations, to enable the Blue politicians who run them to continue to (allegedly) pillage them. There are around three hundred of these organizations in Taiwan, and last month some 200 of their directors rallied to the call of the pro-China parties to support weakened safeguards for the organizations:

The meeting, attended by approximately 200 directors of the associations across the country, was called by a group of pan-blue lawmakers in a bid to discourage the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) plan to reconsider the approved bills.

Hsiao Han-chun (蕭漢俊), director of the Kaohsiung County Farmers' Association, argued against overturning the amendments at the meeting.

"A professor can teach in a college for 20 to 30 years, and a manager can run a company for a long time if they do their job well. Why can't we have an indefinite term?" Hsiao said.

The amendments had drawn a storm of criticism from outside the pan-Blue alliance, and even from reformist minded voices within it. The new rules called for:

The amendments not only cancel three-term limits for secretaries general of farmers and fishermen associations and lower requirements for them to renew their employment but also stipulate that association staff standing trial are not to be relieved of their jobs until a final verdict is delivered in their cases.

Under the existing laws, indicted staff members from farmers and fishermen associations are to be fired from their posts following conviction in their second trials for criminal activities.

The passage of the two amendment packages with the blessing of the KMT-led "pan-blue alliance" which controls a slim majority in the legislature has drawn criticism from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and many political commentators as well.

The KMT had earlier insisted that there would be no revision of the new laws, meaning that the vast majority of the heads of these organizations would be able to retain their posts. The association chiefs are almost all pro-KMT, and corruption is widespread. These associations are a key source of the KMT's dominance at the local level.

Meanwhile the Premier had proposed a veto motion to kill the changes, but yesterday the legislature rejected that as well:

The Legislature Tuesday rejected the veto motion proposed by the Cabinet to invalidate revisions to the rules governing the farmers' and fishermen's associations under which officials involved in legal disputes may retan their posts unless the supreme court finds them guilty.

The Cabinet voiced regret about the Legislature's decision, saying it will come back and hunt lawmakers who back the amendments in the legislative elections in January.

The opposition-dominated lawmaking body voted 115:96 to strike down the veto proposal that Premier Chang Chun-hsiung said was necessary to sustain the achievements of the banking reform on the community level. The associations provide both technical and financial aid as well as other services to farmers and fishermen. Over the years, credit departments in those associations tend to approve loans without sufficient collateral and many of their top executives are involved in corruption scandals.

The criticism runs that the KMT is returning to the Black Gold politics and that this will hurt it at the ballot box. I think that neither of those is the case -- the KMT has always run on licit and illicit flows of money from the government to its favored supporters, and this has never hurt it at the ballot box. Again and again, Taiwanese voters show that they are willing to elect candidates who are opening and avowedly corrupt -- including individuals elected while in jail or on the run from police. This is a shrewd and blatantly self-serving move by the Blue side that will enable them to keep their grip on the local level for many years to come, unless by some miracle the DPP gets control of the legislature.

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