Sat, Mar 27, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Democracy will ultimately prevail

The post-election political protests initiated by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) against the President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) have produced the misleading perception internationally that the nation's nascent democracy is on the brink of crisis. Are the thousands of protesters outside the Presidential Office building and the pan-blue demonstrations planned for today proof of an extremely divided society and a severe lack of faith in Taiwan's democratic system? No, they aren't.

The entire political fiasco created by the pan-blue camp is a disgrace to the nation's hard-won democracy -- but an even bigger public-relations disaster for the KMT. Lien's narrow-mindedness in pursuing the invalidation of the election and his lust for power not only have undermined the legitimacy of his call for a recount but also have wounded the pan-blue alliance. Society would have begun healing the divisions caused by the election campaign if it weren't for Lien's refusal to recognize that he led his party to a second-straight presidential-election loss.

Given Chen's razor-thin margin of victory, it is understandable that Lien supporters would want to voice their dissatisfaction. But the key is how to translate this public dissatisfaction into a driving force for the pan-blue camp. The close race between US President George W. Bush and former vice president Al Gore in the US presidential 2000 election is a classic example of how democratic values can be treasured.

After a month-long recount in Florida and the Supreme Court's rejection of his petition, Gore's concession speech called upon Americans to heal the divisions of the campaign. Gore extended his support to Bush by saying that "partisan feeling must yield to patriotism ... what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside and may God bless his stewardship of this country."

Gore's timely statement saved the American people from endless political maneuvering and a potentially empty power center. Neither he nor Bush anticipated any political turmoil. Both of them understood that their differences had to be resolved through the honored institutions of the US' democracy.

Compare Gore's words and actions with those of Lien. Gore strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision, but he accepted it for the sake of the American people and the strength of American democracy. Lien first filed a lawsuit asking for a recount, but failed to provide any concrete evidence of vote-rigging. Then he questioned the validity of the election and called for a new one -- even before the Taiwan High Court threw out his first suit.

Each time Lien has been offered what he has demanded -- a recount and a broader investigation into the attack on Chen last Friday -- he has refused to accept the offer and has made a new demand. At each step, he has shown he is willing to see the nation's democracy trampled on.

This is what separates a great political leader from a political clown. Disappointment must be overcome by love of country. A country's emerging democracy must not be sacrificed for one man's political vanity.

Today's rally could be a turning point in this country's history. Any attempt to riot will turn the clock back. This would be a huge setback and humiliation to what people have strived for in the past decades.

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