Parliamentary reform bill needs heartfelt backing

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Editorial

Although the Legislature yesterday decided to reopen debate on a crucial parliamentary reform bill during a two-week extraordinary session beginning today, it is far from certain that this proposed legislation will be able to win approval this time around. Besides this bill, the special session will have to screen as many as 20 other bills proposed by the ruling and opposition parties. A failure of the two rival camps to gain each other’s support for their own favored laws could provoke mutual retaliation and this could have an impact on the fate of the legislative reform bill, vote on which is scheduled for Aug. 23, a day ahead of the closing of the two-week session. How the lawmakers will handle the parliamentary bill may also hinge on the conclusions of the six public hearings, to be held before they proceed to debate this particular legislation. Lawmakers have no reason not to respect the views of constitutional and political science scholars, invited to attend the hearings.

Many such experts have long questioned the wisdom of the plan to half the Legislature — to 113 seats from the present 225 — a key part of the reform bill. The main argument is that there is no scientific study that a cut in half in the number of legislative seats will guarantee greater efficiency.

In addition, there is a growing opinion that any initiatives to carry out political reform at this time needs to focus on the issue of the presidential power. Increasingly, the president is amassing more power, so much as to have exceeded the power constitutionally authorized. More worrisome, he is not subject to the scrutiny of the Legislature. In fact, there is a big doubt that the various political forces in the Legislature all support the bill from the bottom of their heart. The smaller parties and some independent lawmakers are known to oppose the bill, because they feel threatened by the other important part contained in the reform plan, which calls for the adoption of single-seat districts, a two-vote system — one for the candidate and one for party — with proportional representation. Such an electoral system tends to be unfavorable for the smaller parties, but it can help reduce the influence of money politics as well as eliminate the chances of candidates relying on radical advocacies to win elections. These are the reasons why the reform bill has had the support of the general public. Although the new voting system may favor the two larger parties, neither the DPP nor the KMT can be sure that they can emerge as the one to benefit the most from an adoption of the system, as each has its own Achilles’ heel. As for the individual lawmakers, they have the least incentive to back the halving of the Legislature as it would mean half of them may in the end lose the chances of winning re-election. For all that, no single lawmaker or party would dare to openly withhold support for the bill and cast a nay ballot if and when the plan is finally brought up for a vote, as none would want to appear as an opponent to reform.