Legislators Not Worth Their Salt (A Commentary)
Legislators Not Worth Their Salt
Source: China Times July 25, 2012
At the end of previous Legislative Yuan session, DPP legislators forcibly occupied the Speaker’s podium, blocking the passage of all bills on the agenda. As a result, an extraordinary session of the Legislative Yuan is being held to handle several urgent matters, including a bill aiming to impose a capital gains tax on stock transactions, amendments to the Food Safety Act allowing imports of US beef containing ractopamine, and personnel appointments to the National Communications Commission (NCC), etc. The ruling and the opposition parties have locked horns over these bills, resulting in a standoff. For the sake of argument, let’s leave aside the nation’s interests and the public’s well-being. In order to improve the negative public perception of the Legislative Yuan, legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties should put these bills to a vote in a democratic and civilized way in order to resolve their disputes.
The Legislative Yuan has gone through an era mired in all kinds of conflicts, including physical fights between legislators from the ruling and the opposition parties and boycotts staged by the opposition parties in protest. However, no matter what, bills were able to be passed in the final moment in spite of the conflicts. Although the bills passed were not flawless, the Legislative Yuan was able to hand in a good report card before the end of each session. This was because legislators from both the ruling and the opposition parties fulfilled their responsibility and lived up to the mandate from the electorate. The electorate cast their votes to elect legislators in the hope that they could pass bills, not block bills.
It is normal in a democratic society that legislators hold divergent views on bills; this is why the Legislative Yuan has a mechanism for consultations between the ruling and the opposition parties. The consultation mechanism is set up to allow legislators of different stripes to seek commonality and shelve differences on major controversial bills in order to facilitate the passage of the bills in the final reading, instead of repeatedly backlogging the bills. If in the end the Legislative Yuan becomes a graveyard for major bills, then it is unnecessary to squander taxpayers’ money to budget large funds each year in order to hire a group of legislators and assistants who could only fight but were incapable of dealing with official business, not to mention opposition parties who held a slumber party in the legislative chamber.
Of course, not all legislators support some bills or personnel appointments submitted by the executive branch. However, democracy is based on majority rule and the principle that “the minority is subordinate to the majority.” Putting bills to a vote is a necessary part of a democracy. Under majority rule, the ruling party must bear full responsibility for legislation. Any problems in the legislation passed in the Legislative Yuan will be recorded on the final report card. Final accounts will be settled in future elections. Therefore, it is really unnecessary for the opposition to occupy the Speaker’s podium.