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Saturday, September 09, 2006


Toppling the Cabinet: Potential Constitutional Crisis

Several of the local papers have been reporting on the campaign by the PFP and the so-called Non-Partisan Solidarity Union (a pro-Blue "party") to get the Blue leadership to support toppling the Cabinet by voting out the Premier, Su Tseng-chang. The Taipei Times editorializes:

To make matters worse, these are not normal times in Taiwan, electorally speaking.

The country is in the midst of a substantial set of reforms whose effect on the political landscape will be profound. In the next legislative election -- whether held next year as scheduled, or very soon if the Cabinet is toppled now -- the number of legislative seats will be reduced from 226 to 113. Also, the "single member, two vote" system to be adopted increases competition for these seats.

As with all reform, a host of unforeseen issues can arise. But there are two things that are obvious: Half of all lawmakers are going to be out on the street (or left doing the talkshow circuit), and the ability of smaller parties such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the People First Party, the New Party and the NPSU to curry electoral favor will be greatly diminished.

It isn't clear if the NPSU lawmakers calling for the Cabinet's dismissal realize that such an act would almost certainly mean their political demise. Perhaps we are witnessing an act of attempted political suicide -- who knows?

Since the NPSU is unlikely to get the support of the KMT at this time, perhaps it should be looking elsewhere. Perhaps it should ask the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to back its proposal -- after all, the group tells us it is "non-partisan" in its very name. And who else really has something to gain from a new legislature?

This proposal may sound absurd, but everything in Taiwanese politics is absurd at present. It could be very beneficial for the DPP to oust its own Cabinet, have the president dissolve the legislature and call a new legislative election under the new system.

Given the uncertainties involved, the pan-greens might even be able to win a majority of the seats. The DPP traditionally has been the largest party in the Legislative Yuan, and the near-even split of the current legislature means that, once the smaller parties are forced off the scene by sheer weight of numbers, the DPP may well come out on top.

David at Jujuflop had an excellent post a few months back on the problems recalling Su would generate:

Under last year’s constitutional reform, the rules for the next LY have been dramatically altered. There’s a different voting method, the number of legislators has been reduced, and the districts need to be redefined. The details of what the districts are, and how the election should be held thus need to be updated, and voted into law. So, the current laws relating to election are no longer valid and the legislative yuan needs to vote through updates to these laws - but they won’t be able to do this if the legislature has been dissolved. Or in other words, if the legislature were to be dissolved:
Taiwan can’t hold LY elections until the laws are updated, but the laws can’t be updated until the LY elections are held.

What would happen then is anyone’s guess - the legislature would join the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan in limbo with no obvious solution. The phrase ‘constitutional crisis’ might be a bit of an understatement at that point.

Incidentally, it is the job of the Central Election Committee to propose the new rules and districts for elections. They have (I believe) already done their job - but the Legislature has been too busy fighting and eating proposed legislation to get round to reviewing and voting on the proposals.

In essence, there are no districts yet. And their can't be, because the legislature must approve the re-districting plan. But if the legislature is dismissed by the President, then the re-districting can't be approved. No districts means no election, and a massive constitutional crisis on the island. In addition to the nagging doubts among the Blue leadership that the Blues could really win a majority in the slimmed down 113 seat legislature, the re-districting problem means that toppling the cabinet could literally destroy governance on Taiwan -- and the Blues might well receive the lion's share of blame for the resulting constitutional crisis. Both KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and KMT legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng mention this problem in their responses to fire-eaters' demands that the Cabinet be brought down, as the Taipei Times reports:

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday agreed that the time was not ripe for toppling the Cabinet, as the issue of redrawing electoral districts had to be resolved first.

The Non-Partisan Solidarity Union, a blue-leaning fringe party, is planning to launch the campaign next week in the legislature to force Ma to demand the Cabinet's resignation, calling on the KMT to support the plan.

The two KMT leaders, however, drew short of supporting the proposal during their one-hour closed-door meeting.

"It's not practical to topple the Cabinet now. We don't have solutions for redistricting yet. What should we do if the president decides to dismiss the legislature?" Wang said yesterday at KMT headquarters.

The president is legally entitled to dissolve the legislature and hold new elections should the legislature topple the Cabinet.


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