Opposition Malfunction Made Government Abuse Its Power
United Daily News Editorial, December 25, 2021
Within just a few days right after the referendum, the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has successively put forward two controversial policies: the merger and upgrade of Hsinchu County and Hsinchu City into a new special municipality and the direct submission of the 2022 general budget bill to the plenary session (second reading) of the Legislative Yuan, without going through first reading. Although the latter was withdrawn by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) due to high-pitched public criticism, the Tsai administration’s abuse of power had reached the highest point where it could do whatever it wanted. The incompetence and indifference of the three opposition parties had played the best role in prodding the Tsai administration into acting so recklessly.
The Tsai administration’s abuse of power has become the norm since it took office, and the recent four question referendum has made it even more obvious. The opposition camp knew that they were dealing with an arrogant government, while being unable to stand firm on their political platforms or strategies, instead they were functioning separately and making a series of mistakes one after another. The three opposition parties—Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan People’s Party and New Power Party--had never joined hands to rally voters, while getting used to making their own political calculations. Consequently, they all lost their shirts, and this was a story of “divied we fall.”
Regarding the motion to "merge and upgrade Hsinchu County and Hsinchu City", although three opposition parties had verbally criticized this motion which could greatly expand the power of the Central Government and undermine the upgrading procedures as stipulated in current law, they were not marching in lockstep. The KMT became ambivalent immediately after figuring out that "the Kuomintang still has a chance of winning" even if Hsinchu County is merged and upgraded, and it only proposed that "the neighboring Miaoli County is to be added to the said mergers and upgrades". As everybody knew, this issue involved major right and major wrong. Instead of adhering to the values and cardinal principle of territorial re-zoning, the Kuomintang was clearly jumping on the DDP bandwagon in a bid to "divide the spoil" for short-term benefits.
While the KMT's ambiguity over the mergers and upgrades was a matter of calculation, the DPP's blatant decision to directly submit the 2022 general budget bill to the plenary session of the Legislature was a complete misjudgment of the situation. After the DPP's proposal for a second reading, none of the three opposition parties realized the damage it would do to the constitutionality of democracy, the separation of powers and the dignity of the legislature. Unfortunately, all parties downplayed the DPP’s proposal. The opposition parties did not raise hell until the media had found that DPP’s proposal was so serious that the Tsai administration’s arrogance should be condemned.
Being at the frontline of checks and balances, the legislators of the three opposition parties were so absent-minded about their role as a watch dog that the Tsai administration was much amused to dig deeper in soft soil.
In the end, after Legislative cross-party negotiations, the DPP agreed to reopen the case and withdrew the motion of "second reading of the Bill". Such a turnaround could hardly be called a "victory" in terms of opposition checks and balances. In fact, the motion represented the Tsai administration's hegemony and contempt for the democratic process, but New Party Power claimed that it was "the result of retaliation by the two major parties" and demanded that the KMT promise to complete the budgetary review process by the end of this year. This seemed to be a "50-50 slap on the wrist", but in reality, it was a "covert attempt to protect" the DPP and helped the big green to get out of the way, clearly demonstrating the "little green" mentality.
It is also outrageous that the KMT caucus in the Legislative has agreed to finish the budgetary review process in the first reading by the committee before the end of 2020. This was tantamount to justifying that the DPP’s excuse that the second reading boycotted by the KMT was true. The KMT had already lost its position as a result. Furthermore, as a matter of fact, the government would not suspend its function, even though the budget bill is not passed within the time limit. The result of the KMT's full retreat and the New Power Party's outflanking gave the DPP the edge over the KMT.
After the referendum, Chairman Eric Chu of the KMT has been almost completely "invisible", and no KMT internal review has been heard of. The KMT leadership seemed to choose not to face the political reality. This, coupled with the fact that other minor parties had their own hidden agendas, had contributed to the collective incompetence of the opposition parties. When the DPP's one-party was dominant over the opposition parties to the largest extent, they were really on the chopping block, though they were not "annihilated.”