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New law needed to define political party autonomy

The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has renewed a legal battle to oust Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng from the party, again highlighting the country's lack of a law governing the establishment and management of political parties that could jeopardize the democratic institution.

The KMT on Thursday filed an appeal to a higher court against a previous district court ruling that protected Wang from being expelled from the party.

The move sparked much speculation, as it came on the same day that student protesters ended their weeks of occupying the Legislature following Wang's promise to act in favor of the occupiers' demands.

The lawsuit looks like an act of retribution by President Ma Ying-jeou for Wang's alleged refusal to toe the party line, a legal battle that has revealed the lie behind all the friendly gestures that both sides have shown each other over the past six months or so.

The tensions between Ma and Wang have been as high as ever, the former bent on getting rid of the latter, and the latter not ready to give up without a fight.

We're not recapitulating all the previous developments underlying the rift; it basically surrounds a case of alleged influence peddling that Ma believes is morally wrong but is not punishable legally.

But the president, who also controls the KMT in his capacity as its chairman, thinks he — or theoretically the party — has the full authority to decide the fate of maverick members.

A party disciplinary committee — whose membership had been approved by the chairman — decided that Wang would be expelled, a decision that Ma finalized, supposedly with satisfaction. That means Wang, who was appointed to an at-large legislative seat by the KMT, would lose his place in parliament and naturally his speakership as well.

But the district court ruled that a member of any civic group — including political parties — cannot be expelled without the approval of a party congress.

The KMT argues that it should not be treated as an ordinary civic group, although by definition it is in terms of the existing law.

It is interesting to see how Ma has been eager to bend the law in this case, despite his famous propensity to play by the book. We nevertheless agree that a political party is not an ordinary civic group. Political parties should be governed by a separate law.

But this law must not be written in a direction that Ma and the KMT seem to be suggesting. While we believe political parties must be free from interference from the government, we are equally convinced that a democracy should be run without the domination of a single leader that has absolute control over the administration, the parliament and the ruling party.

The government in Taiwan may no longer be able to interfere in the operations of any political parties, but sadly this nation of ours is still being run by a leader who has tight control over the administration, the parliament and the ruling party. And this leader does not have to directly report to parliament; only his proxy — namely, the premier he appoints — has to.

This democratic institution of Taiwan needs a lot of reforming, and one of the first steps may be to introduce changes in the way parliament members, least of all its speaker, can be easily disciplined or dismissed by their parties. Such disciplinary actions make parliament members rubber stamps for their parties, rather than servants of their constituencies and the nation.

If you are aware of how difficult it would be to dismiss a civil servant in Taiwan, it is ridiculous that the speaker of parliament can be sacked at any time on an order from his or her party.

1 Comment
April 13, 2014    gentledoesit@
Supported by less than 10% of the population before the Sunflower Movement (one of the nicknames seen on a poster during the occupation read “馬英9.2”) and with poor economic results at home, Ma had already found it hard in previous months to legitimize his actions.

One man has emerged, after twenty days, as a Deus ex machina: Legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng – an old competitor of Ma in the KMT.

Soft spoken, pragmatic and rational, it was Wang who decided to speak to the students, asking them nicely to go back home in exchange for his decision — which stunned the KMT of which he is a member — of pushing for a vote on the supervision mechanism before the CSSTA can be reviewed again.

A vengeful Ma immediately rejected Wang’s offer. But, fortunately, while he counts on his party’s majority, he has no power to determine the legislative agenda.

And while the KMT can threaten reluctant lawmakers that it will not nominate them for the next legislative elections, the latter will nevertheless fear that after securing their nomination, they might be voted out of office for following too strictly Ma’s orders on this delicate matter: the CSSTA. Ma: check, and soon enough: mate.
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