Taiwan's legislative chaos sparks fears for island's democracy

IANS Photo

Taipei, May 21 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of people, on Tuesday, gathered outside the main building of Taiwan's Parliament to voice their worries about what they see as a dysfunctional legislature and the erosion of democracy by China-friendly parties.

Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its majority in the Parliament in the January elections and has faced major challenges in the current session, which started in February.

On Friday, ruling and opposition lawmakers engaged in brawls over several controversial bills, including the expansion of the legislature's investigative powers. Several injured lawmakers required hospital treatment.

The fear is that the power of the legislature is being expanded without the appropriate dialogue and procedures.

The main reason behind the chaos is that the opposition parties - including the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), and the Taiwan People's Party (TPP) - voted last month in committee, where bills are usually reviewed and discussed, to take their versions of the bills directly to a floor vote without clause-by-clause deliberation, and left out bills proposed by the independence-leaning DPP.

On Tuesday, when lawmakers continued their meeting to vote on the contentious legislation, huge banners reading "Democracy is dead" and "Hong Kong-ization in Taiwan" were hung at the podiums in the conference hall.

Ordinary people and activists from NGOs gathered outside the legislature to express their dissatisfaction, displaying banners reading "No discussion, No democracy," "I defy the parliament," and "Democracy overturns."

"Are such bills (proposed by the opposition lawmakers) designed to expand their power or to let our sovereignty be asserted?" Citizen Congress Watch chairman Tseng Chien-yuan said at a news conference at the protest scene.

"Taiwan is not a normal country. So I'm afraid that Taiwan's democracy could be easily taken away, just like that in Hong Kong," Amy Yang, a 45-year-old obstetrician, told dpa on the sideline of the protest.

Yang, also a mother of an 11-year-old son, said she is worried about the erosion of democracy, which would leave a dim future for the next generations.