The Legislative Yuan (Chinese: 立法院 pinyin: Lìfǎ Yùan, literally "law-establishing court") is the legislative body of the Republic of China, which currently administers Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy, and Matsu Islands.
Position in the government
The Legislative Yuan is one of the five branches (called 'yuàn', "courts") of government stipulated by the ROC Constitution, which follows the San-min Chu-i (political theory of Sun Yat-sen). Although sometimes referred to as a "parliament," the Legislative Yuan, under Sun's political theory, is a branch of government in a presidential system, while only the National Assembly of the Republic of China (now dormant), with the power to amend the constitution and formerly to elect the President and Vice President, can be considered a parliament. Nevertheless, after constitutional amendments effectively transferred almost all of the National Assembly's powers to the Legislative Yuan in the late 1990s, it became common in Taiwanese newspapers to refer to the Legislative Yuan as the parliament (國會, guo hui).
The Legislative Yuan has the power to pass all ordinary legislation. The amount of control the Legislative Yuan has over the Executive Yuan was unclear throughout the 1990s, but a convention has developed that the Executive Yuan is responsible to the President of the Republic of China and not the Legislative Yuan.
The current and 5th Legislative Yuan has 225 members. Current legislators have come to office in different ways:
- 168 are elected by popular vote
- 41 are elected on the basis of the proportion of nationwide votes received by participating political parties.
- Eight are allocated for overseas Chinese and are selected by the parties on the basis of the proportion of votes received nationwide.
- Eight seats are reserved for the aboriginal populations, with half of those seats directly elected and half allocated by party lists.
Members serve three-year terms. The election method is single non-transferable vote which produces interesting electoral strategies.
The current political composition:
Much of the work of the Legislative Yuan is done via legislative committees, and a common sight on Taiwanese television involves officials of the executive branch answering extremely hostile questions from opposition members in committees. In the 1990s, there were a number of cases of fist fights breaking out on the floor, usually triggered by some perceived unfair procedure ruling, but in recent years, these have become extremely rare.
The other Yuans are authorized to propose legislative bills to the Legislative Yuan. Legislative bills proposed by the Legislative Yuan have to be cosigned by a certain number of legislators. Once a bill reaches the legislature, it is subject to a process of three readings.
The original Legislative Yuan was formed in the KMT's Chinese capital Nanking after the completion of the Northern Expedition. Its 51 members were appointed to a term of two years. The 4th Legislative Yuan under this period had its members expanded to 194, and its term in office was extended to 14 years because of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). According to KMT political theory, these first four sessions marked the period of political tutelage .
The current Constitution of the Republic of China came into effect on December 25, 1947 and the first Legislative session convened in Nanking on May 18, 1948 with 760 members. Six preparatory meetings had been held on May 8, 1948 they, during which Dr. Sun Fo and Mr. Chen Li-fu were elected President and Vice President of the body, respectively. In 1949, the mainland fell to the Communists and the Legislative Yuan (along with the entire ROC government) was transplanted to Taipei. On February 24, 1950, 380 members convened at the Sun Yat-sen Hall in Taipei.
The first Legislative Yuan was to have been elected for a term of three years ending in 1951; however, the fall of the Mainland made it impossible to hold new elections. As a result, the Judicial Yuan decided that the members of the Legislative Yuan would continue to hold office until new elections could be held on the Mainland. Over the years, deceased members elected on the mainland were not replaced while additional seats were created for Taiwan starting with eleven seats in 1969. Fifty-one new members were elected to a three-year term in 1972, fifty-two in 1975, ninety-seven in 1980, ninety-eight in 1983, one hundred in 1986, and one hundred thirty in 1989. Although the elected members of the Legislative Yuan did not have the majority to defeat legislation, they were able to use the Legislature Yuan as a platform to express political dissent. Until 1991, opposition parties in Taiwan were formally illegal. However in the 1970s, candidates to the Legislative Yuan would run as Tangwai or outside the party and in 1985, candidates began to run under the banner of the Democratic Progressive Party.
The original members of the Legislative Yuan remained until December 31, 1991, when as part of subsequent Judicial Yuan ruling, they were forced to retire and the members elected in 1989 remained until the 161 members of the Second Legislative Yuan was elected in December 1992. The third LY, elected in 1995, had 157 members serving 3-year terms. The fourth LY, elected in 1998, was expanded to 225 members in part to include legislators from the abolished provincial legislature of Taiwan Province.
The Legislative Yuan greatly increased its prominence after the 2000 Presidential elections in Taiwan when the Executive Yuan and presidency was controlled by the Democratic Progressive Party while the Legislative Yuan had a large majority of Kuomintang members. The legislative elections in late 2001 produced a contentious situation in which the pan-blue coalition has only a thin majority over the governing pan-green coalition in the legislature , making the passage of bills often dependent on the votes of a few defectors and independents. Because of the party situation there have been constitutional conflicts between the Legislative Yuan and the executive branch over the process of appointment for the premier and whether the president has the power to call a special session.
Amid 70% public support, the Legislative Yuan voted 217-1 on August 23, 2004 for a package of amendments to halve the number of seats from 225 to 113. The proposed composition will be elected by "single district, dual vote" with one vote for a legislator and the other vote for a party and include 73 constituency seats, six seats for aboriginals, and 34 at-large slots. Each county will be guaranteed at least one constituency seat while at least half of the at-large seats in any party list must be women.
The term of the LY will also be extended from three years to four years to place legislative elections in synch with presidental ones.
Additionally, the Legislative Yuan proposed to abolish the National Assembly. Future amendments would still be proposed by the LY by a three-fourths vote, but after the mandatory 180-day promulgation period, be presented for ratification by ROC voters in a referendum. A DPP proposal to allow the citizen right to initiate constitutional referenda was pulled off the table due to a lack of support. The proposal for a right to initiative was criticized for dangerously lowering the threshold for considering a constitutional amendment. Whereas a three-fourth vote of the LY would require that any proposed constitutional amendment have a broad political consensus behind it, a citizen's initiative would allow a fraction of the electorate to force a constitutional referendum. It was feared that allowing this to occur would result in a referendum on Taiwan independence which would likely result in a crisis with the People's Republic of China.
The Legislative Yuan also proposed to give itself the power to summon the president for an annual "state of the nation" address and launch a recall of the president and vice president (proposed by one fourth and approved by two thirds of the legislators and be submitted to a nationwide referendum for approval or rejection by majority vote). The Legislative Yuan will also have the power to propose the impeachment of the president or vice president to the Council of Grand Justices.
An ad hoc National Assembly must be formed within six months of August 23, 2004 to approve the proposed amendments. This is regarded as a mere formality. The downsized LY will probably take effect in 2008.