DPP to Clear the Stage for Local Government Act, Triggering Legislative Backlash Again

China Times, December 25, 2021


The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan has made advance arrangements for the 2022 local elections. President Tsai Ing-wen, who concurrently serves as chairwoman of the DPP, ordered the amendment of the Local Government Act to merge Hsinchu County and Hsinchu City into a municipality directly under the central government. The two-term mayor Lin Chih-chien (a DPP member) of Hsinchu City may potentially serve another eight years as mayor of the newly merged special municipality if the amendment realizes. Despite the detonation of the "setting up a post simply to accommodate a specific person" from the opposition parties, the DPP caucus of the Legislative Yuan used the technique of advancing to the second reading directly and successfully sent the draft to the internal administration committee for review. The DPP does not rule out that the bill may be included in the extraordinary session’s agenda in January next year to accelerate the completion of the third reading, so that the revised Local Government Act will be effective before the 2022 election.


In the Legislative Yuan, the DPP presented successively the general budget and the Local Government Law to the second reading and bypassed the first reading within three days. Legislator Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) gave a sour comment and indicated that the Tsai administration has been "addicted" to “going the second reading directly”. He also said that the people across the country now know the term "directly going to the second reading", and that they can see that the Tsai administration does not allow others to oppose, let alone discuss, so it is a fake democracy and a true dictatorship.


On December 21, the DPP legislative caucus put the 2022 central government's general budget directly to the second reading, creating a bad example of constitutional government in the R.O.C history. Conflicts between the ruling party and the opposition broke out, and the public was in an uproar. After consultations, Legislator Ker Chien-ming, whip of the DPP caucus, promised that so long as the KMT caucus agreed that the committees would review the budget by the end of December, he would agree to make concessions. This won the support of the three major opposition parties. On December 24, the DPP caucus submitted a reconsideration based on the conclusion of the said consultations, and the general budget was determined to return to the committee.


Because of the same means as that applied to the general budget, the three opposition party caucuses were dissatisfied right on the spot. KMT legislators even occupied the floor and paralyzed the proceedings.


After consultation among the party whips during a break, Legislator Ker agreed to "concession" and was willing to submit a reconsideration to withdraw the case from the second reading, but it had to be handed over to the committee for review. Afterwards, Ker proposed to submit the draft to the committee. Although the opposition parties still proposed to return to the procedure committee, it was not passed after the vote, and the draft was smoothly advanced to the internal administration committee.


The draft addresses the conditions for the promotion of counties and cities in Article 4 of the existing Local Government Law: "The population is more than 1.25 million, and in terms of political, economic, cultural, and metropolitan regional development, a municipality directly under the central government regions may be set up with special needs.” Only one word is to be amended, from "and" to "or".


Secretary-General Liu Shyh-fang of the DPP caucus stated that next year’s nine-in-one elections will include mayors and city councilors, so if counties and cities are merged, it may be necessary to re-plan constituencies or adjust the seats of councilors, which must be determined about half a year before the election. As for when the Local Government Act will be amended, she said it is currently undecided.


According to the Local Government Act, there are two ways to merge and upgrade counties and cities. "Top-down" means the Ministry of the Interior draws up a restructuring plan, consults the county and city governments and then reports to the Executive Yuan for approval. "Bottom-up" means the county and city governments draft a restructuring plan, which is approved by the respective councils and then submitted to the Ministry of the Interior for approval by the Executive Yuan. Because the Executive Yuan has the absolute right to make decisions, it is possible that only Hsinchu will still become the seventh municipality directly governed by the central government even if other counties and cities want to “carpool” after the amendment to the Local Government Act, given the DPP administration’s soft spot for Hsinchu.


Update: Under pressure from both inside and outside his party, Mayor Lin Chih-chien of Hsinchu stated on the evening of December 27 that he would not run for mayor of the merged special municiaplity.


From: https://www.chinatimes.com/newspapers/20211225000352-260118

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