What a lame duck president can do

By Joe Hung, special to The China Post

According to the results of a Taiwan Think Tank poll released last Friday, President Ma Ying-jeou’s disapproval rating rose to a record high of 62.5 percent in April, up 12.8 percent from March’s 49.7 percent figure. And not just that; the same poll, showed 44 percent of respondents now feeling they shouldn’t have voted for him on Jan. 14 this year.

On the same day, Ma’s Kuomintang-controlled Legislative Yuan voted on whether all U.S. beef on the market in Taiwan should be taken off store shelves, all American beef in customs confiscated, and all potential beef imports from Uncle Sam halted. The result must have shocked the president. The vote was a 44-44 tie, and Wang Jin-pyng, the speaker of our unicameral parliament, had to cast his deciding vote to block the proposal the united opposition of the Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan Solidarity Union and People First Party had made to ban American beef and beef products. Particularly shocking to the president was that three lawmakers of the People First Party, a splinter from the Kuomintang, joined the so-called green camp of the other two in opposition, and many Kuomintang legislators stayed away from the voting. He must have known his lame duck days would begin long before he would be sworn into office again on May 20.

Well, the surprise attack by the three opposition parties was repelled, but a frontal attack is imminent. President Ma is being asked to appear before the nation’s highest legislative body to make a State of the Nation report. None of the first three presidents of the Republic of China made any State of the Nation report on the floor of parliament. The Constitution says it is the job of the president of the Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, who is the head of government, while the president of the republic is the head of state and isn’t responsible to the parliament. President Lee Teng-hui did, however, make a State of the Nation report before his electoral college of the National Assembly, which now exists in name only. He did so, on his own accord. Now that the National Assembly has ceased to function, the Legislative Yuan seems intent on taking over its role to have Ma deliver a State of the Nation message. Lawmakers had the Constitution amended first. The amendment says: “The Legislative Yuan, when meeting for the first time every year, may hear a State of the Nation report.” In other words, lawmakers may choose to ask the president to come to them and speak on the state of the nation. So, they are now requesting the honor of Ma’s presence so that he may speak.