Parliamentary system carries power, accountability trade-off


The China Post news staff

Constitutional reform is an issue that has been moved to the forefront of public debate in the wake of the Kuomintang’s (KMT) devastating loss in the 9-in-1 Elections last month. Important figures in both the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have been joining the chorus of voices clamoring that the current semi-presidential system of the R.O.C is not accountable to the people, because instead of the president bearing responsibility for executive failings, the premier has the honor instead. Dozens of legislators from both major parties have signed onto a push to transition to a parliamentary system in which the premier, as the head of government, comes from the party holding a majority in parliament. Eric Chu, a rising star in the KMT, on Friday publicly endorsed a transition to a parliamentary system over the next few years. In Chinese, the phrase for a parliamentary system in literal terms means a ��cabinet system�� (���ը��^. One reason the term is fashioned that way could be that among the important decisions to be made is who gets the power to decide the cabinet’s composition. One major problem pointed is pointed out by scholar Wu Yu-shan (�d�ɤs), political researcher in Academia Sinica and cited in the United Daily News, is the inherent trade-off between the opportunity to directly elect of the most powerful executive, versus the enhanced accountability installed when the system guarantees that the leader comes from the majority party in parliament. Because in a semi-presidential system, elections take place for both the president and the legislature, executive responsibility is divided and it can be unclear who should take the blame when things go bad, insofar as blame can be fairly allocated for situations such as natural disasters and economic downturns. However, the people must be reminded that the opportunity to choose one’s highest leader by direct election is a privilege conferred by the semi-presidential system. If one were to insist that the most powerful leader come from the majority party in parliament, then his or her selection becomes an internal matter for the party in power.

In other words, in Taiwan’s current system, the chief executive holds a degree of substantial power that can be wielded and can translate into policy change and personnel decisions. If we were to opt for a parliamentary system, any president who remains would become a symbolic leader who will become deferential to the parliamentary head �X by necessity and logic.