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Dec 12, 2007

A darker vision of the new Legislative Yuan

There's a very well reasoned analysis of the upcoming legislature in the China Times that was brought to my attention by blogger Feiren. It is a longish article but raises some great points and has a very different -- and perhaps darker -- vision of what the Legislative Yuan will look like.

The article's conclusion? Legislators elected in districts, all 73 of them, will be able to turn into their own version of Yan Ching-piao (尊顏清), the independent legislator who commands the respect of both political parties despite his ties to mobsters and corruption.

And what do 73 Yan Ching-piaos mean? That each legislator will be fiercely independent, outside of the control of party leadership, be safely re-electable in his district, and won't bother with fist fights.

In my analysis, the party center controlled the legislator instead of the voters. In this China Times analysis, it is the legislator who will control his voters through his newly massive local influence, and therefore the party center's influence will be marginalized.

Why? The author outlines several reasons he believes these legislators will have reached what he calls "political samadhi" (政治三昧). In summary, these are:

  • A strong political network. Because city councils, township magistrates, county magistrates and mayors of all parties will be forced to depend on their legislator to provide funding for projects and to spread the pork, legislators can expect respect and some degree of support from everyone at local government levels. They will also be closely connected with the local farmers and fishermans' associations.
  • A strong economic network. As Distributor of Pork in Chief for his district, each legislator can expect to get the sort of pats on the back and to cooperation from business ventures, legal and illegal, that the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union now has.
  • Strong social influence. The article points to Yan Ching-piao heading the Matzu temple in his district as an example, but I'm not sure this point is all that different from the first two, and don't expect every legislator will be involved in his locale's biggest temple.
  • The primary/opinion poll oriented nominations system will give the party less influence, as they will essentially be forced to either let the legislators do their own thing or risk turning the legislator into non-partisan pork distributing heroes in their districts. The article states that Wang Jin-pyng is worried that even if the KMT wins the legislative election, a rapid slew of defections could mean the KMT doesn't get to pick the speaker.
  • New challengers will have a much harder time getting media attention or challenging an incumbent. In the current system, a guy could get elected with far less popularity and work his way up; in the new system, that won't be a possibility. The article cites American state government, where re-election rates are over 90% for incumbents. (Think, return of the ten-thousand year legislature (萬年國會).)

He talks about some likely consequences of this system.

  • Because each committee has some 14-15 seats, and because many legislators sign in but don't participate in the meeting, it will only take two or three legislators to control the meeting of the five or six legislators who actually participate.
  • Small parties are likely to get some legislative seats, be able to form a caucus (it will only take 3 legislators, vs the 7 required now) and influence the direction of legislation just as the NPSU does now. As Feiren pointed out in a discussion, this gives small parties huge power since they will have to be bought off to get any legislation passed (any party with at least three seats will be able to stop legislation from reaching the floor).
  • More corruption and stronger local factions with plenty of power centered in the incumbent.
  • The other branches and legislature itself will have to take steps to limit the negative consequences.

So, this vision of the Legislative Yuan is very different than the one I outlined in the last post, but perhaps more likely to become reality. Both analyses, however, don't fill you with hope for an effective Legislative Yuan just around the bend.


Jerome said...

This bears watching; it could be for the better. i.e. in the USA Senators in particular support their position by bringing in benefits for their constituents. Pork barrels exist,but a lessening of control by the party may open Taiwan up for a better focus on one party just dominating and blocking what is good for the country.

阿牛 said...

I would almost like to see nothing more than for the legislators to break the strangle hold the party caucus has on them.

But then thinking of a bunch of Yan Ching-piaos reminds me, as Feiren said, to be careful what I wish for.

Only time will tell.