Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan takes the next step

By Ralph Jensen

As a foreigner I have often watched in awe the dynamism of the people of Taiwan. Four years ago they made an audacious step into an unclear future, driven by the hope and optimism of a confident people.

After the election, many people did not know what to make of it. Opposition leaders stayed away from the inauguration -- maybe hoping that the past would return in time. The time for this had come, but it has not happened.

Taiwan took a second step in the same direction, a bigger one. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) don't seem to read the signs this way.

They were apparently only prepared for one outcome, victory. They can apparently lead only in one way, from the top down. They ignore the fact that half the people of Taiwan, 40 percent more than four years ago, voted the other way.

It seems they have no concept about a role in the opposition, no clear plan for the future of their party. All this appears to be secondary. The lack of democratic practice also shows in the handling of the possible party merger, which surprised even their own members. In the struggle for their brand of political power, these ordinary people come last, not first.

Fortunately others in their parties seem better prepared to lead the opposition for the next four years. Hopefully more modern opposition leaders will participate in building the future.

All this is much more than the struggle between parties and political agendas. It is not about Taiwan's independence. It is about one more step in the birth pains of a democracy. This is greater than all of us.

Ralph Jensen

Kaohsiung County

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