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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Opposition confused about bills

Opposition confused about bills

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have worked in cahoots to try and force through legislative reform bills. So far, the contents are questionable — the legislation is not only of exceptionally poor quality, but also ignores basic constitutionality.

The “state of the nation address” motion alone reveals that the proponents have lost all sense of constitutional awareness.

The Legislative Yuan on Tuesday last week completed the second reading of Article 15-1 of the Act Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power (立法院職權行使法). It came to light that the KMT and the TPP had not only revised the original articles, but had also added two new ones, including making the state of the nation address into a “compulsory duty.” These amendments seem to have been “cooked up” and passed in the shadows, a shockingly unconstitutional move.

Article 15-1 of the Act Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power states that the source of its authority derives from the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文) and that it follows the conditions set by these constitutional amendments. Article 4-3 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution stipulates that “when the Legislative Yuan convenes each year, it may hear a report on the state of the nation by the president.”

However, the KMT and the TPP have proposed an amendment that changes this optional provision into a mandatory requirement — “the newly elected president must submit a state of the nation report to the Legislative Yuan within two weeks of their inauguration to office, and has to deliver his speech within a month” — which is a blatant violation of the existing constitutional agreement.

The amendment to the law raises concerns around the sheer number of state of the nation addresses.

The reasoning is straightforward. With the exception of a presidential handover following elections, the only instances in which the president leaves office is as a result of resignation, impeachment, dismissal or death. In such situations, the vice president must assume the presidency or the succession must be handled according to constitutional regulations.

However, consider a scenario in which the president has already presented his speech to the Legislative Yuan, but must subsequently step down. If the KMT and the TPP had their way, the new president would need to deliver another address.

In a second scenario involving a presidential handover, if the outgoing president had delivered a state of the nation address before March 1, the incoming president would still have to give another one according to the second reading of Article 15-1.

In yet another situation involving multiple presidential transitions within one year, each new president would be obliged to deliver a speech. Just how many speeches does the president need to deliver to satisfy the demands of the KMT and the TPP?

The wording of the “state of the nation address” as stipulated in the Additional Articles of the Constitution clearly indicates that it was only intended to be delivered once a year. Any interpretation that calls for multiple speeches within a year would be nothing but a thorn in the side of the president. It is glaringly obvious that should the presidency change, the address should simply defer to the following year.

The intentions behind the bills might be crystal clear, but are certainly not pure — the goal is to ultimately extend the Legislative Yuan’s oversight of the Executive Yuan to the president.

This might explain the decision to replace the term “premier” with “president” in Article 16 of the Act Governing the Legislative Yuan’s Power, which originally required the premier to present an administrative report within two weeks of assuming office.

In their smugness, perhaps the KMT and the TPP have forgotten that the Constitution states that “the Executive Yuan is accountable to the Legislative Yuan,” not the president is accountable to the Legislative Yuan.

The Constitution outlines specific roles and responsibilities for the president and the Legislative Yuan in governing the nation, with the Additional Articles of the Constitution already establishing rules regarding the state of the union address. Should the KMT and the TPP wish to expand oversight of the president, they should seek to directly change the Constitution rather than attempt to sneak in shady and unconstitutional legislative amendments.

(Editor’s note: The reform bills passed their third reading on Tuesday.)

Chang Bao-yuan is a former presidential secretary.

Translated by Gabrielle Killick

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/05/30

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