Tue, Jan 23, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Time for a fresh start in politics

As the Chinese New Year approaches, Taiwan is filled with the joy of celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Snake. Traditionally the lunar new year is a time for family reunions, wishes for a new beginning and a brighter future. So what new beginning or brighter future should we wish for?

Looking back at the months since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office, many are blaming the turbulence on the inexperience of both Chen and the DPP and their hazy understanding of the role of a ruling party. Meanwhile, the KMT has been criticized for its unwillingness to accept its defeat in the presidential election and for its poor performance as an opposition party. In the Legislative Yuan, the hostility between the DPP and the KMT and their constant mudslinging has set a bad example for inter-party interaction following the first transition of political power in Taiwan's democratization process.

We can only hope that both the ruling and opposition parties will use the long holiday this year to reflect on and rectify their mistakes. The KMT has to stop dwelling on its election defeat and act like a responsible opposition party rather than a bunch of spoiled and disgruntled children, while Chen and the DPP have to recognize the political reality of being a minority government and work harder to coordinate and communicate with the opposition parties. More people voted against Chen than voted for him. As a result the DPP needs to jettison pet ideologies and cleave to the political middle ground. It cannot complain of not being allowed to govern when it pursues policies for which it has failed to get any bipartisan or popular support. On the other hand the opposition, especially the KMT, has to realize that they did lose the election. The country needs government and according to the Constitution it is the DPP which sits in the driving seat. Trying to recover power by constitutional manipulation shows a lack of respect for the voters, for the electoral process and Taiwan's democratic processes. The KMT should stop plotting constitutional coups and start working out how to win an election.

The Executive Yuan's decision to scrap the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant last October triggered almost unprecedented political dislocation which led to an erosion of confidence. Frankly, the Council of Grand Justices' interpretation of the Constitution on Jan. 15 was an appalling mess, a politically-inspired fudge which rather than solving the problem merely laid out paths for both sides to follow to further standoffs. The fact is that this issue can only be successfully resolved by some kind of compromise, but the DPP and the KMT, the main protagonists in this long-running conflict, are as far apart as ever. Once again, ideological zealotry is getting in the way of making government work.

Internationally, the US presidential election has been thought-provoking as far as Taiwan's politics are concerned. It was one of the most controversial elections the US has seen. Had the situation occurred in Taiwan, things probably would not have ended so peacefully. When the Supreme Court finally spoke, we saw Al Gore putting the national interest before his own and conceding defeat. In preparing for the transition, we saw George W. Bush taking pains to eliminate partisan fractures and unite the country. The maturity of US democracy serves as a useful role model for Taiwan.

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