or legislative majority?
While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has vowed that it will do
everything possible to win the presidential election in 2016, former premier Yu
Shyi-kun has been advocating a different idea. While winning the presidency is
important, winning a majority in the 113-member Legislative Yuan could be even
more crucial for safeguarding Taiwan’s sovereignty and prosperity, Yu says,
adding that “de facto governance” would not be achieved until the DPP wins a
Yu, the longest-serving premier under the 2000 to 2008 DPP administration,
understands to what extent a legislative minority can hamper an administration,
as many DPP-initiated bills and proposals were blocked by the majority Chinese
Nationalist Party (KMT) during his tenure, while domestic politics was
deadlocked by party ideology. Things have not improved since the KMT returned to
power in 2008, enjoying what President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) called “total
governance,” with the KMT controlling the executive branch and enjoying a
dominant majority in the Legislative Yuan. What the public has experienced
during the past five years is a rubber-stamp legislature. KMT lawmakers have
supported every major controversial policy proposal and piece of legislation
including relaxing the ban on US beef imports, the introduction of a capital
gains tax on securities transactions, resumed construction of the Fourth Nuclear
Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市) and, most recently,
the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Although the legislators did not always personally support these policies, as
most of them speaking in interviews or on political talk shows voiced concerns
about or opposition to Ma’s policy ideas, they nonetheless supported these
ill-fated policies when the bills were put to a vote in the legislature because
they would have been committing political suicide by defying Ma, who doubles as
KMT chairman and can decide on future party nominations.
For KMT lawmakers, the objective was not to represent the public’s voice, but to
secure their own futures and those of the groups that backed them. As for Ma, he
never respected the legislature. Voting along party lines may be common in any
given democratic country, but the practice should never be used in such a way as
to completely ignore public opinion.
This is why Yu’s proposal makes sense. The former premier said that winning a
majority in the legislature would probably be harder than winning the
presidential election, and a party that controls only the legislature would have
to operate more passively, as it would be unable to take the initiative in
formulating policies that enhance livelihoods and national development. The DPP,
or an opposition coalition, could safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty, national
security and the everyday concerns of the public if it controlled the
Legislative Yuan, whereas the KMT seems obsessed with pushing through the
cross-strait service trade agreement.
Yu is right. It would be difficult for the DPP to jump from 40 seats to more
than 57 in order to gain a legislative majority.
The current electoral system, which was changed from the system of single,
non-transferable votes in multi-member districts to the single-district, two
votes system in a 2005 constitutional amendment, does not favor those who wish
to challenge the incumbents. Nor does it help that the DPP’s rival is the
richest political party. If the DPP pursues Yu’s vision, it must do so
unwaveringly. If the DPP wins the next presidential election, but is a minority
in the legislature, it could be in for a deja vu experience.