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Taiwan's parties need restructuring

Taiwan's parties need restructuring

The continued attempt by several groups to force President Chen Shui-bian out of office, ranging from the former ruling Kuomintang and its allied People First Party, to the "Depose Chen" movement initiated by former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh and the right-wing "Democratic Action Alliance," justify concern over the sustainability of Taiwan's adoption of a democratic system in which "the counting of heads has replaced the cutting off of heads."
We expect that the people of Taiwan can no longer accept political change through violent means, whether through military or even "soft" coups or "revolutions."
However, the various "pan-blue" political parties and their open or covert allies have written an ugly page in Taiwan's democratic history by refusing to accept the results of the past two direct presidential elections, and using covert and overt methods to push President Chen out of office before the end of his legitimate term.
The "Depose Chen" movement is characterized by an extremely reactionary mentality of "personalist rule" which negates our hard-won realization of a democratic institutional method of electing our representatives and national leaders through regularly scheduled elections with universal suffrage. The trend for a restructuring can be seen conceptually and institutionally.
First, the status of a presidential election with the entire country as one single seat constituency and the adoption of single-seat constituencies in the next Legislative Yuan election will provide a strong impetus for the formation of an effective two-party dominant system with little or no room for third parties.
For good or ill, such a "two-party system" will become more visible and entrenched with each election, as has been shown by the previous examples of the United States, Great Britain and Japan.
Given Taiwan's past ethnic and voting patterns, it is evident that the two dominant parties will by necessity have to appeal primarily to so-called "native Taiwanese" voters, primarily of Hoklo or Hakka ethnicity, even though the use of the concept of "native" is increasingly outdated.
Increasingly, instead of being determined by ethnic background, the notion of "nativity" is being superceded by "citizenship" in which "national identity" is seen in terms of identification with Taiwan as an independent and democratic state and the principle that major decisions regarding Taiwan's future can only be decided by its 23 million residents through democratic procedures, such as national citizen referendum.
Second, we should recognize that there is actually no "blue" and "green" division in Taiwan society, nor any unbridgeable gulf within our society on the question of "unification" or "independence."
The alleged "antagonism" between the "blue" and "green" camps, so named since "blue" is the party color of the former ruling Kuomintang and green that of the Democratic Progressive Party and the broader Taiwan democratic movement, is deliberately fueled by self-interested politicians, pundits and the mainstream media.
This "antagonism" is a false conflict that has far deeper roots in top-down propaganda and the historical legacies left by over five years of KMT dictatorship and one - party domination and the grassroots resistance to it than the actual experience or views of our citizens now.
The efforts of all our citizens have combined to establish the foundations for a democratic society with the rule of law and a high degree of freedom of expression and of the press and a liberal market economy.
Although major inequities continue to exist, notably the KMT's continued possession of billions of New Taiwan dollars in ill-gotten party assets, Taiwan's political parties can engage in positive competition as "rivals" for electoral support by proposing constructive and progressive public policy visions and do not need to engage in cutthroat competition as "enemies."
So long as the competing parties and voters accept the mutual "social contract" of accepting the results of fair and open elections, the Taiwan people should have the capability to transcend past and outdated antagonisms and seriously consider how to address the current problems of Taiwan society.
Parties will be tested on the basis of the quality of their proposed solutions, and the people's confidence in their sincerity and capability to realize their programs against the backdrop of an implicit consensus of a Taiwan-centric national identification and adherence to the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
Only then will "transitional" issues as ensuring the "nationalisation" of the armed forces and intelligence agencies and the civil service and the independence of the judiciary be accomplished and the ghost of "party-state fusion" or the corrupt tradition of party domination of the civil service and courts left from the KMT era be laid to rest.
Instead of tearing up the fabric of unity in Taiwan, elections will be able to leave behind baiting of loyalty and there will be little or no room for use by any side of the so-called "China" factor or any room for Beijing to engage in manipulation of our political system based on either remnant "virtual great Chinese identity" or cutthroat partisanship.
During the 12 years of the concurrent presidency and KMT chairmanship of Lee Teng-hui from 1988 to mid-2000, the KMT had been gradually moving in the direction of "Taiwanization" or "nativisation" and the groundwork for an effective system of two "native" Taiwan parties with the DPP was forming. However, Lee's protege Lien Chan turned away from Lee's line of "democratization" and "Taiwanization" of the former exogenous KMT and decided to ally with the extreme "pro-China" conservative orthodoxy of the former ruling party.
This shift by the two-time presidential election loser and the refusal of Lien and his allies to accept the legitimacy of DPP rule sowed the seeds for today's bitter political deadlock and the very real threat of restoration of the KMT orthodoxy to power, a historical reversal that could well deliver a death blow to Taiwan's democratic experiment. Therefore, it is essential for the vast majority of Taiwan-centic politicians, activists and intellectuals, within and without the two major parties, to focus on the fundamental issues facing Taiwan.
Besides defending the integrity of our democratic and legal institutions, it is necessary to begin preparation for political restructuring that will allow us to emerge from the struggle between "autocracy and democracy" into a new era of competition and cooperation among parties that are truly "native" in their adherence to Taiwan's democracy.


Updated : 2021-10-22 02:22 GMT+08:00