Newspaper article China Post

The Sad and Laughable Truth of Taiwan's Filibuster System

Newspaper article China Post

The Sad and Laughable Truth of Taiwan's Filibuster System

Article excerpt

On June 25, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis held an 11-hour filibuster that successfully delayed the passage of a new abortion regulation in the state. In order to block the bill that would close most of the abortion clinics in Texas and ban abortion for women over 20-weeks pregnant, she needed keep talking on the rostrum until midnight when the legislature session ended. She was not allowed to drink, eat or have a toilet break. She could not sit or lean on anything or anyone. She had to stay on the rostrum and on topic if she wanted to keep the floor.

Her herculean endeavor not only blocked the bill but also transformed Davis from a little-known local politician into a national star among the Democratic Party. Her marathon speech went viral online and was featured in news bulletins worldwide. U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned her in a tweet even as she was holding the filibuster, saying in the microblog: "Something special is happening in Austin tonight."

The tactic of speaking a bill to death (or at least to a delayed arrival) has been used since the late Roman Republic, with notable examples being two cases of the practice against proposals made or sponsored by none one other than Julius Caesar. In the modern U.S. Senate, filibuster is used by lawmakers to forestall the passage of bills that enjoy majority support and can therefore not be defeated by vote.

At around the same time, Taiwanese politicians were also making international news with their brand of filibuster, one that involved physical clashes rather than speech. Ahead of a scheduled discussion of a referendum over the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant on June 25, an all-out brawl erupted among lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It reportedly started with DPP lawmakers launching an attack to wrest control of the rostrum from their KMT counterparts. These elected officials pulled, shoved, bit, throttled, as well as doused water and coffee on each other right inside the heart of Taiwanese democracy. …

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