Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A barefaced grab for power

Panorama of strawberry fields along 6 in Miaoli.

Taiwan News explains the ruckus in the legislature today, and shows how, once again, the KMT is impairing the island's democratic development..... read carefully!


President Ma Ying-jeou and his right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party wrote a new dishonorable page in Taiwan history Monday by ramming a bill through the Legislative Yuan that tramples on the one of the most fundamental of democratic principles, namely the right of citizens to vote and be elected to office for fixed terms.

In a legislative session featuring incessant shoving and occasional slugging, the KMT used its nearly three-fourths majority to ram through revisions to the Local Government Act over intense resistance by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party that will allow the KMT to retain its grip over grassroots administration regardless of who wins year-end mayoral elections for five special metropolises.

The KMT revisions, notably to Article 58, overturn the draft changes approved by the KMT Cabinet last September to ensure the smooth process of upgrading the local administrations in the new "Xinbei City" (formerly Taipei County) and the mergers of Taichung City and Taichung County, Tainan City and Tainan County, and Kaohsiung City and Kaohsiung County.

The Cabinet's version, which had received bipartisan backing, mandated that township mayors, village chiefs and township and village assembly members would step down when the new metropolitan mayors are inaugurated and be replaced by civil service appointees, as is now the case in Taipei City and Kaohsiung City.

Partisan purposes

However, the KMT shifted gears last week in the wake of the DPP`s sweep of three legislative by-elections on January 10, allegedly due to low turnouts by KMT "mobilization" voters, in the wake of well-orchestrated pressure campaign by KMT grassroots officials who burned party cards and promised further boycotts of KMT candidates unless their future employment was guaranteed.

In the wake of sharp objections by the DPP over such an "unconstitutional" proposal and opposition and outcries of protest by citizen and indigenous rights groups, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung declared final support for three different versions within as many days last week before settling on the version rammed through the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Besides questions of the validity of the voting process as numerous KMT lawmakers gathered at the speaker's podium had their voting buttons illegally pushed by other colleagues, the KMT revisions trample on the fundamental democratic "social contract" between the electorate and their elected officials and representatives for regular elections with fixed terms.

Under the revised Article 58, over 50 urban and rural township mayors will continue in office as appointed political officials for up to four years or until the merger of their districts is substantively completed and cannot be dismissed by the incoming metropolitan mayors.

In addition, the revised Article 58-1 will mandate the appointment of former township and village assembly persons as "advisors" and paid for attendance at meetings deemed necessary for the merger process for as long as four years.

As a result, when combined with the one - year extension already mandated by revisions to the same law last year, mayors and assembly members originally elected in December 2005 for four year terms will hold their positions for as long as nine years even though their electoral mandate was only for four years.

There should be few doubts that such officials, which are almost all KMT members, will do their best to delay the completion of this process for a full four years.

Moreover, the KMT revisions will prevent DPP metropolitan mayors from breaking the hold of such KMT local officials and their networks of "black and gold money politics" or even effectively implement their administrative reform programs before the next set of presidential and legislative elections in early 2012.

It should come as no surprise that opinion polls have shown that over two-thirds of citizens of across partisan lines expressed opposition to these changes or that the KMT has decided to ram them through the Legislative Yuan for the sake of its own electoral purposes.

This decision to trample on democratic systems and values for the sake of the KMT's partisan interests is no different in spirit

from the indefinite extension by the late KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek of the terms of parliamentary bodies elected on the China mainland pending "completion of the KMT's "sacred task" of "recovery" of the China mainland from the "bandit" Chinese Communist Party.


It should now be obvious why the DPP has been doing so well. Not only are many in the KMT fed up with the poor performance of the Ma Administration, but its local politicians, upon which the national party depends to keep its grip on the local areas, are holding the KMT to ransom over their future livelihood in local government positions. Thus, the KMT has decided to stage a raid on the treasury, as well as impair the democratic development of the island.

A disgusting power play, that also shows that there is widespread fear in the KMT of losing some of the municipal government seats. In the ROC administrative system the new municipality chiefs (mayors? governors?) will be more powerful than the county magistrates, for the municipalities are the equivalent of provinces in the ROC system. Plum positions, and the KMT appears to believe that if it can't win, at least it can obstruct....
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

They are not obstructing. The open bribery of these local officials is so that they will actively support Ma's re-election campaign. But anyways, disgusting, and yes, I'm optimistic about all DPP candidates, including even Hsiao Bikhim in Hualien.

Ben Goren said...

I agree with you Mike. The KMT's 'putsch' is a text book move to ensure compliant officials even if the municipalities are headed by opposition party figures. The new heads will face recalcitrant officials who will not aid their elected leaders shout conflict arise between central and municipal government. An example of the kind of influence the KMT wishes to retain was seen when 17 KMT run local governments refused to change text books on the orders of the Ministry of Education when it was run by the DPP.

If there were questions about whether the KMT had come to believe in democracy over the past 14 years, there should now be yawning chasms of realisation that they don't and probably never did. My own research seems to confirm this ... it's win at all costs rather than abide by the rules. If the rules don't suit the KMT, they just change them: Penghu referendum and the mysterious way the threshold mandated by the Referendum Law was not legislated away out of necessity. Luckily, the referendum didn't pass.

Arty said...

In stead of having a ruckus in the legislature today, why not just challenge in the Supreme Court following the book, if it truly unconstitutional. Did DPP ever challenge any so called "unconstitutional" laws?

Islander said...

I hope the Taiwanese electorate see the KMT for what it is- an election machine that doesn't care about Taiwan. This is a shameful display of power grab. How can anyone with a conscience be a part of the KMT?

Anonymous said...

'Did DPP ever challenge any so called "unconstitutional" laws?'

Arty... You ARE and idiot. The DPP is the result of a challenge to unconstitutional laws. It was the reason they came into existence. They were a "protest" party to challenge the unconstitutionality of the suspended constitution. You remember the era? The era you supported?

Raj said...


The DPP have challenged the constitutionality of laws and decisions in the past. The problem is that the Supreme Court either ignores them or only requires the legislative to review the law in a few years time. By then it is too late to make a difference.

If the Supreme Court now strikes this law down in an effective way I would be pleasantly surprised, but I wouldn't bet on it happening - I'd bet the other way.

BIT said...

Even a KMT supporter would feel ashamed of such an outright political robbery. That is if he/she has moral conscience. Then again, for people who have benefited from a similar robbery in the past, they always find ways to justify their action however outlandish it may sound. When the action is deemed to be "constitutional", they feel they are law-abiding citizens although the constitution can be rewritten to their utmost and rediculous favor by them. Remember when Chiang Kai-shek granted parliment members a life time term, he had to justify it by letting them feel that they "dedicated their life" to the ROC. What did they do in return? They went along with any actions Chiang instituted including Martial laws that slaughtered many of our citizens whose only "crime" was to have the freedom of speech.

I'm sure Arty would not agree with me, but I don't expect he would.

Anonymous said...

Let's not blind ourselves to the old-guard KMT's original goal, which is to return triumphantly to China. Never mind about the current status; these old guard are taking advantage of a thaw to realize this goal.

In order to accomplish this, they need to maintain unity and hold on to the power base. To hell with the Taiwan constitution! These guys think they have bigger fish to fry

Anonymous said...

Anon 8.42am put down the crackpipe.

Even if Taiwan and China unified sometime in the future, the old-guard KMT you mention would have to live to at least 120 to see it. Seeing as any decisions won't be made for decades, and it'd require a majority of Taiwan's population to support it even then, it's not at all likely to ever happen.

Anonymous said...

anon at 3:46 --

Ma himself has been quoted in an interview in a Japanese paper last year that the KMT intends to restore the republic to China--although there is no mention of when or how from him.

Political mythologies never, ever change. Ever heard of Germany? Israel? Serbia? Undefeatable Afghanistan? Even "that scepter'd isle..this blessed plot, this realm, this England..."?

If you bothered to closely read my post, I infer that these old guard believe in their sacred mission and THINK there are more important things than the unscepter'd Taiwan and it's people.

And as for letting 20-odd million decide their own fate -- that remains, unfortunately, to be seen.

Arty said...

Arty... You ARE and idiot. The DPP is the result of a challenge to unconstitutional laws. It was the reason they came into existence. They were a "protest" party to challenge the unconstitutionality of the suspended constitution. You remember the era? The era you supported?

Good, then DPP should challenge the law in court. :) Clearly it works right...and then Raj said it didn't work. :(

I'm sure Arty would not agree with me, but I don't expect he would.

You will be surprised, that I actually agree with you. Except DPP did a lot of unconstitutional stuff during Chen through executive orders. Both sides are guilty of power grabbing, and if you want Taiwan's democracy to mature. Eventually you have to bring in the court as the blinded judge.