afterthought to previous post

A quick afterthought to the previous post.

When the KMT passed the revision to its rules allowing Wang Jin-pyng to run on the party list again, it included a set of proposed reforms to the legislature’s rules. There were three proposals. The legislative process should be more efficient; the speaker should become a neutral figure, and the process of negotiations between parties should become more transparent. I saw at least one statement explicitly tying these reforms to allowing Wang to run again. The logic was that if the speaker were neutral, he should not be subject to the regular restrictions on “political” or “partisan” list legislators.

The first proposal, efficiency, is vague and practically meaningless. The second and third, however, can easily be interpreted as direct attacks on Wang’s power as speaker. What people in Taiwan seem to have in mind when they call for the speaker to be neutral is that he or she should not participate in party caucus activities. The speaker would not be the one trying to pass the majority party’s agenda. Instead, he or she would be more of a neutral referee. The Speaker in the UK House of Commons is an example of a neutral speaker. The British Speaker is also irrelevant. The UK has a strong party leader who arranges the House agenda. That person is called the Prime Minister. The point here is that there is always a partisan floor leader who has substantial power over the rules and agenda. If you make the formal speaker irrelevant, that power will migrate elsewhere. In the Ma Ying-jeou vision of hollowing out Wang’s power, the KMT would like to make Wang the irrelevant speaker, while the real power migrates to the majority party leader – who can be chosen by the party chair. (Of course, this all still assumes the KMT will be running the legislature in the future, which seems rather optimistic at this point.)

The third idea is to increase the transparency of party negotiations, something that has widespread appeal. Nevertheless, the current system of party negotiations is closely associated with Wang Jin-pyng. He became speaker in 1999, and the current system was put into place in 1999 and 2000. Wang likes the current system of back-room, closed-door negotiations because it fits his style perfectly. He gets along with almost everyone and is ideologically flexible, so he is fantastic at negotiating. Without the media to mess things up, he has much more space to encourage different sides to make opaque trades. Most importantly, the speaker always chairs the negotiation meetings, so Wang is always in position to guide or even control the bargaining. Transparency would mess all this up, so Chu’s proposed reform would be a major blow to Wang’s power.

What this means is that Chu’s move to put Wang on the list came at a cost. Chu snubbed Ma by bringing Wang back into the fold. However, Chu also tried to cut away some of Wang’s power, a move that would make Ma happy.

Again, the closer you look, the less it looks like Chu was trying to move away from Ma.

4 Responses to “afterthought to previous post”

  1. ジェームス (@jmstwn) Says:

    Chu seems to have a facility for seeking balance in a way that makes everyone angry with him.

  2. Greg (@greghao) Says:

    While these can be interpreted as moves against Wang, couldn’t it just as easily be read as trying to head off the DPP at the pass? Especially with the “Speaker should be neutral and above the political fray” bit.

    The odds of the KMT maintaining its edge in the legislature is probably slim at best, wouldn’t the DPP majority want to impose its own speaker? (Or is that not how it works in Taiwan compared to the US?)

    • frozengarlic Says:

      If I’m not mistaken, the DPP officially favors both making the speaker neutral and making the party negotiations more transparent. “Neutral” speakers sound good to the general public, even though it’s a relatively useless idea. If the DPP has a majority, it will certainly be able to control the floor agenda, whether through a strong speaker or through a strong floor leader bearing some other title.

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