Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have successfully blocked the passage of a bill aimed at opening the door to U.S. beef containing ractopamine, a livestock leanness-enhancing drug.
The DPP lawmakers' uninterrupted occupation of the legislative rostrum in the last five days of the just-concluded legislative session not only pre-empted a vote on the controversial bill but also prevented deliberation of many other key legislations.
Only 15 bills were passed during the session, the lowest number in 17 years.
Local news media described the shelving of the U.S. beef-related bill as an embarrassing setback for the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) which holds majority seats in the Legislature.
The failure was also seen by some as a sign that President Ma Ying-jeou might be becoming a lame duck as lawmakers from his own party had done nothing against the DPP's unprecedentedly lengthy filibuster.
In an effort to rebuild leadership credibility, the Presidential Office, the Cabinet and the KMT legislative caucus have decided to push for an extra legislative session this week to deal with the U.S. beef bill.
As the DPP has again vowed to thwart any KMT attempt to steamroller the bill through the Legislature, it remains to be seen whether President Ma and his administration would succeed in getting the bill clear the legislative floor.
We believe the main cause of the KMT administration's current predicament lies in its reluctance to take up the policy-making responsibility at the beginningwhile just wanting to quickly lift the ractopamine ban.
The administration should not have tried to downgrade the issue as a minor one involving just food safety and should have instead treated it as a critical problem involving Taiwan-U.S. trade partnership and future overall engagements.
If the Ma administration had adopted a serious attitude toward the ractopamine issue and had endeavored to lobby the U.S. to offer more trade favors in exchange for the lifting of the relevant ban, the opposition party would have far less maneuvering leverage and the public would have been more sympathetic to the president's stance.
The approval ratings of President Ma and his administration have plunged to record lows in wake of recent flip-flops on fuel and electricity rate hikes, stock capital gains tax plan and U.S. beef import row.
We hope the president will learn a lesson from these flaws and setbacks by dealing with conflicts and confrontation with sincerity, skills, and wisdom.
The real guts should be shown in painstaking patience in finding the best possible way to resolve the current plight rather than in highhandedness and sternly uncompromising manner.
To rebuild leadership credibility, the Ma administration should also come up with policy initiatives that can truly help the local economy break its current bottlenecks and allow the business sector and general public to regain confidence in the country's future. (Editorial abstract -- June 18, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)