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Ma Ying-jeou should know not to change horses midstream
Publication Date : 10-10-2013
When the delegation from the National Union League urged Abraham Lincoln to be their presidential candidate in 1864, he replied: “An old Dutch farmer ... remarked to a companion once that it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.” This remark gave the English language the well-known idiom of “Don't change horses in midstream.” It means one shouldn't change one's position when part-way through a campaign or a project.
President Ma Ying-jeou changed horses midstream last Friday. He let his Kuomintang spokesman Yin Wei announce his decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court against the temporary injunction granted to Wang Jin-pyng, speaker of the Legislative Yuan, by the Taipei District Court on September 13 and upheld by the Taiwan High Court on September 30. The Kuomintang stripped Wang of his party membership on September 11 to oust him from the position of parliamentary speaker, only for him to secure a temporary injunction to stay on until the issue of his party membership is settled by intra-party litigation, which may last as long as two years.
Ma kicked off the campaign to get rid of Wang with the resignation of Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu for his involvement in the recent influence-peddling case, in which Wang had requested Tseng to get a high public prosecutor not to appeal the not-guilty verdict handed down on Ker Chien-ming, the Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip who was sentenced by a district court to six months in prison for breach of trust, but later exonerated.
As a matter of fact, President Ma spearheaded the attack on Wang, who was asked by Ker to make the request to the justice minister. But Ma beat a hasty retreat after testifying before Taipei district prosecutors last Thursday in an office hearing of charges against Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming for revealing national security information prior to pressing charges of influence-peddling against the justice minister.
The Kuomintang spokesman then made an announcement of Ma's decision not to file the appeal with the Supreme Court because “President Ma knows many party members support his stance of opposing influence-peddling and he has also heard their concerns about the political situation. He hopes to maintain political stability while clarifying the incident.” By clarifying the incident he meant to stress a parliament speaker's involvement in influence-peddling is a serious matter in any democratic country and it is his responsibility to handle it. The Kuomintang will continue the litigation against Wang to cancel his party membership.
The problem President Ma now faces is if his olive branch will ensure political stability. It's next to impossible. The stalemate in the Legislative Yuan continues, and it is highly likely to get worse. Hijacked by the opposition party, Wang is at its mercy and disgruntled Kuomintang lawmakers will vent their grudges against their chairman. The retreat from the battle over Wang's temporary injunction makes no difference in the worsening political situation.
But if the appeal is made, there is still a chance to get the temporary injunction lifted. Even if it were turned down, the Kuomintang could request the Council of Grand Justices to explain the constitutionality of its right to fire a member who is a lawmaker elected by proportional representation like Wang. In 2002, the Democratic Progressive Party ousted Yuan Chiu Chang, a legislator elected by proportional representation. Chiu filed a plea for temporary injunction with the Taipei District Court, but the plea was turned down. The grand justices were asked to explain the constitutionality of the district court decision, which still stands.
The president's war to reform the parliament must go on. The Legislative Yuan is one of the worst parliaments in the world, where every imaginable sort of antics can be used by the opposition party to prevent passage of government bills. Wang, parliamentary speaker for 14 years, is mainly responsible for this poor legislative performance. The Kuomintang can file its appeal with the Supreme Court before Friday. Will President Ma reconsider his decision not to appeal?