Sun, Dec 12, 2004 - Page 8 News List

In practice, green camp will have a majority

By Antonio Chiang 江春男

Democratic politics is a head-counting game. But it is also an art of negotiation and compromise. Both the ruling and opposition camps vowed to win over half of the seats in the legislative elections as if they were competing to see who has the bigger muscles.

The blue camp held a majority in the Fifth Legislative Yuan. Its pledge to maintain that majority showed its lack of confidence. The legislature was a source of chaos over the past few years, as the opposition legislators failed to play their roles well while hurting their images.

Grandstanding is not the way to supervise the government; boycotting is not the way to restrain it. Over the past few years, the pan-blue camp believed that protests were the best supervision. As a consequence, the opposing camps turned the legislative floor into a savage battlefield. Opposition lawmakers often asked absurd questions, and the pan-green ones often answered them absurdly in return.

A legislative majority is necessary for administration, not for supervision. The situation of a majority government and a minority opposition is considered the democratic norm. A minority opposition is still able to function if it participates in politics seriously, and it may become the governing party as it grows. Even if the opposition camp has more seats than the ruling one, it will decline if it does not work hard and restrains the government at all times.

Opposition parties are the pillar of democratic politics. Just like judicial independence and freedom of speech, they are the foundation of any democratic system. An incompetent opposition party is obviously disadvantageous to a democracy. It may be the governing party's victory to defeat such an opponent. But it is not the public's victory.

As the old Chinese saying goes, "An incompetent general will exhaust his army." As the opposition camp's momentum constantly weakens, both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) should take responsibility for the blue camp's failures.

The opposition camp would certainly suffer losses as it spins around in the battlefield set up by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). As a result, the green camp is challenging the system, while the blue camp is protecting it. As the DPP marches forward, the opposition responds conservatively, acting as if they were the government.

The legislative elections were in fact the presidential election in overtime. The political career of each leading character in this game was decided by his or her personality. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is calm whenever he is down, and is conceited whenever he is up. On the contrary, both Lien and Soong are calm when they are up, and are at a loss as to what to do when they are down. The two are destined to lose their political careers despite the legislative election results this time.

The green camp will win the legislative majority in practice -- even without having won a majority of seats. But then what? Political reconciliation is only possible when the two camps make room for each other. If politicians trample on one another, it will be unbearable to watch when they come to an open break in friendship.

Democratic politics is not a monologue by a ruling party, and the participation of opposition parties is an indispensable condition. The two camps should not be hostile to each other. Otherwise, what good will it do even if a camp wins the majority while dialogue is still absent?

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