Trouble still lies in wait for post-Wang Legislature

The China Post news staff

President Ma Ying-jeou is bent on getting rid of Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, but the ousted Kuomintang elder is not giving up without a fight. Apart from a possible split within the KMT because of what many believe is a power struggle between the president and the speaker, trouble lies ahead for the Legislature itself. Ma seems to have blamed Wang for delays in having the Legislature support his policies, such as the cross-strait service trade pact that was signed earlier this year but has yet to be approved by the Legislative Yuan because of the opposition party protests that hijacked the proceedings. If the president expects peace to return to the post-Wang parliament, he is wrong. Whoever succeeds Wang will have to face an opposition camp that will be even more determined to stand in the way of whatever Ma wants passed. Ma’s handling of the controversy — stemming from the speaker’s alleged influence peddling in a lawsuit on behalf of parliamentary minority leader Ker Chien-ming — has again shown the president’s one-directional thinking: everything and everyone has to follow the law, or his idea of what the law should be. Ma has always presented himself as a defender of the rule of law, so in theory he has never allowed himself, or others, to peddle influence. So for Ma, Wang has made the biggest mistake he could have ever made. Ironically, the Special Investigation Division’s (SID) conclusion that Wang’s alleged influence peddling did not amount to a criminal case has given momentum to Ma’s political campaign against Wang. Had the SID filed criminal charges against Wang, Ma would have had to refrain from commenting on a criminal case. And we have seldom seen Ma act so quickly and eagerly to get rid of someone. For Ma, Wang is the stumbling block. The speaker has failed to make maximum use of his authority allowed by the law in order to facilitate government operations. Wang has tolerated the opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers’ frequent protests that have stalled the Legislature’s operations. He should have exercised the authority given to him by law by sending in police to carry away protesting lawmakers from the legislative chamber, but he has never done so. We see two very different characters here. While Ma is apt to invoke the law to achieve whatever he believes is right and legal, Wang believes in negotiations. Ma may be apt to force through the legislation his administration’s needs, but Wang will try to have different parties negotiate deals, sometimes behind closed doors. Ma is more of a straightforward supporter of the rule of law, and much less of a politician. Wang is a master of the art of politics, but perhaps this is the very reason for his doom. The real problem is that Ma now expects the Legislature to be more of an institution where the law reigns and less of an arena where different interests are represented by their own legislators. Ironically, the Legislature makes law, but the law is often the result of compromises and concessions made during political games. Ma probably expects that the Legislature, dominated by KMT deputies, will from now on see its decisions made purely by voting, rather than by protesting. He probably expects Wang’s successor to send in police to stop the protests of opposition lawmakers. He is probably wrong. The president has given the opposition legislators more reasons, or excuses, to protest more. Ma has slammed shut the door to negotiations. The nation may now brace for daily protests and clashes between police and opposition lawmakers inside the legislative chamber. If the ruling party relies purely on its majority of seats to force through its policies, the opposition will have no choice but to stage protests to stall the Legislature.

Ma may have cleaned a stain in the rule of law but he has opened Pandora’s box.