Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 8 News List


A sad day for democracy

It has been reported that Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) suggested that cities and counties controlled by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) boycott the referendum proposed by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Apparently the KMT believes that, as a major political party, it can compel members who are elected officials to disobey laws with which it disagrees (as opposed to those declared void by legal process).

This is indeed a sad day for democracy in Taiwan. It is the kind of thing that would happen in a one-party system, such as China's, but not in a democracy.

The rule of law governs democracies, not the rule of tyranny. Citizens and workers can express their opinions and can carry out boycotts. Elected officials must do their jobs according to the law, or they will be dismissed or impeached. The only means by which elected officials can address a law with which they do not agree is to follow the legal procedures to have the law changed, whether by legal challenge in court or by amendment or other legal process, or to have its enforcement stayed until its legality has been determined.

To suggest that all KMT officials should simply refuse to obey the law, and boycott a validly called election (or referendum), calls for anarchy. That would also be a sad day for democracy.

I am shocked that a man considered a prime candidate to become president would call for such a lawless measure. What measure of a man is it if he cannot resist the voice of corruption and tyranny, even if it is whispered to him by his colleague, the man in charge? Can he not resist that which he knows is corrupt and wrong?

No one is above the law -- neither KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), nor Ma, nor Chen. But in a nation of laws, to obey the law is the very essence of democracy, to criticize it the very voice of democracy and to change it only by legal process and never by force the very heart of democracy. Could a lawyer with a degree from Harvard have any questions about this? If the president has the power to call for a defensive referendum (which he does), then the place to object to the referendum is in court, not in Lien's boardroom.

If the court were to declare the referendum void, the KMT would be the first to call for the president to desist, but until then it should respect the president's right by law to call for the referendum. That is how democracy works. It is no

surprise that a party which struggled to contain its often terrible oppression for five decades still doesn't get it.

What does it portend for Taiwan if the KMT believes it can simply ignore laws it does not like? Does it mean that if Lien is elected president, he would simply disregard laws he does not agree with? What if the legislature passes a law he doesn't like? Will he just ignore it? Will he enter into agreements with China that he is not authorized to enter into merely because he believes he can disregard laws he does not like?

How a party in opposition behaves is a very good baro-meter of how that party will behave if it is elected.

After five decades of abusive tyranny, and a scant four years in opposition, now faced with the challenges of political disagreements, the KMT is advocating anarchy,

or lawlessness.

What can that possibly mean for the future of Taiwan? And what would happen if the KMT passes laws that the people don't like?

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