Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 8 News List

US-Taiwan parallels stop at the politicians

By Wen Wei-Ni 溫維妮

When it became clear that US President George W. Bush had won a second term, many of my American friends' disappointment was obvious. Many people in the US told me that if Bush won, the US would not be the place to be anymore. And many people outside of the US told me they aren't going back for another four years.

It goes without saying Senator John Kerry has shown himself to be a true disciple of democracy in conceding defeat, accepting the fact that whilst it was a close race, nevertheless the majority of voters had opted for Bush.

Many commentators have pointed out that Bush won, not over foreign policies, the economy or taxes, but on moral values -- on his opposition to gay marriage and his constant presentation of his leadership as a matter of religious faith and principle. In effect, the Republican Party mobilized the conservative forces to vote in this record turnout election.

Across the Pacific Ocean on the same day, Taiwan's High Court rejected a lawsuit contesting the March presidential election and upheld President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) narrow victory. Emotional pan-blue supporters gathered outside the court to listen to the judgment. No less disappointed were the Democratic supporters in Boston. But as Kerry delivered his concession speech and spoke of "the danger of the division in the US ... and the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together," pan-blue supporters outside the court were greeted by politicians of another kind.

Pan-blue legislative candidates said things along the lines of: "I know your disappointment in the bias and untrustworthiness of our legal system. The courts have disappointed us by yielding to political pressure. But do not let your emotions get carried away. Instead turn your sadness into votes in the legislative elections."

The poignant similarity between the 50-50 social division in US and Taiwan is understandable: the public has their beliefs and a right to their choices. But the parallel stops there.

Deliberate distortion of fact and of the image of the justice system by these vote-hungry legislative candidates take Taiwan back 200 years. Considering that it has been less than 20 years since the birth of democracy in Taiwan, this chaotic state might be forgivable. But from a legal perspective, one can only give a long sigh. The opposition invariably claims im-proper conduct in elections when they lose. Now they are also claiming improper legal proceedings, downright bias and political maneuverings after they lost the legal suit. Everything is wrong and unfair, unless it's in their favor.

But these politicians' claims do not stem from an inability to accept the fact that they lost the presidential election, nor a lack of faith in the integrity of the legal system -- but because by making such claims, the public's emotions can be manipulated to gain votes.

I feel much the same as my Democratic friends who want to abandon or leave the US. I too, would like to block out the scenes created by the selfish politicians in Taiwan, who, simply because it might get them more votes, have no concern for the damage they are causing to the fundamental rule of law in the country. But just as I would tell my US friends that while the majority of the voters walk on the "right" side of the political spectrum now, the liberal values held by the younger generation will overcome the old conservative values in the days to come. Perhaps I should say that to myself about Taiwan.

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