Taiwanese parliament passes controversial bills expanding legislative oversight

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Public TV English
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TAIPEI (Taiwan) : Taiwan’s opposition-controlled parliament has approved a series of legal amendments aimed at bolstering lawmakers’ authority to scrutinize the government under President Lai Ching-te, who assumed office on May 20, Voice of America reported.

Despite days of widespread protests since May 17, which attracted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) and the smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) used their combined majority to pass the bills on Tuesday. These bills await the president’s signature to become law.

While proponents, including Fu Kun-chi, the KMT legislative caucus convenor, argue that the amendments will enhance checks and balances and empower the legislature to combat corruption, the move has sparked significant concerns within civil society and academia.

“Now that Taiwan’s legislature has passed the bills, lawmakers will uncover all corrupt officials and all kinds of malpractices in the future,” remarked Fu, who announced plans to establish a “special investigation team” to probe corruption cases, according to Voice of America report.

As legislators voted on the amendments, thousands of protesters voiced dissent, passing around a giant white ball bearing the phrase “rejecting Chinese political interference.”

Critics accuse the opposition parties of circumventing democratic norms by fast-tracking the legislative process without adequate inter-party negotiations. Liao Yan-cheng, a 78-year-old retiree, lamented, “There is a democratic negotiation mechanism in Taiwan’s parliament, but the opposition parties’ insistence on pushing the bills through the legislature without proper deliberation has violated regular democratic practices.”

Concerns extend to the potential misuse of legislative powers by the opposition parties to undermine the Lai administration’s governance over the next four years. Max Wang, an 18-year-old student, expressed apprehension, stating, “Since the opposition parties will maintain control over the legislature for the next four years, they can ramp through this controversial bill without following the proper legislative process.”

The reforms passed on Tuesday grant lawmakers the authority to demand annual reports from the president and interrogate government officials. Additionally, the legislature gains enhanced control over government budgets and the ability to investigate government projects.

While the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) decries the reforms, arguing that they could undermine Taiwan’s democracy, the KMT contends that the amendments are necessary to rein in the president’s extensive powers.

However, concerns about the constitutionality of the reforms loom large. Legal scholars and bar associations have raised objections, suggesting potential violations of the Republic of China’s constitution, as reported by VOA.

Huang Cheng-Yi, a legal expert at Academia Sinica, highlighted constitutional concerns, indicating that certain aspects of the reforms may be deemed unconstitutional. He anticipates that the DPP will challenge the reforms in the constitutional court.

Analysts warn that the amendments could embolden the opposition parties to launch investigations targeting the Lai administration, potentially impeding policy implementation and undermining national security.

Despite mounting pressure, President Lai is expected to exercise his constitutional authority to request legislators to reconsider the reforms. With no single party commanding a parliamentary majority, Taiwan braces for political gridlock, which could impact defense spending and social welfare policies.

Huang at Academia Sinica cautions that sustained political gridlock may imperil Taiwan’s democratic system, underscoring the need for dialogue and compromise among all political parties to safeguard democratic governance, Voice of America reported. (ANI)

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