The legislative elections have ensured that the government will continue to struggle to find support from lawmakers. The victorious pan-blue camp has demanded that Deputy Legislative Speaker Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤) be appointed premier. Under the current constitutional system, trying to imitate France's cohabitation government is likely to precipitate a constitutional crisis. To end the political gridlock of the last four years, government and opposition leaders must replace confrontation with communication.
The Constitution states that the premier is a presidential appointment and does not require the consent of the Legislative Yuan. But because Taiwan's constitutional system is similar to France's semi-presidential system, considerations of political strength suggest that the current situation seems to offer an opportunity for a government of cohabitation.
Over the last four years, there were at least three opportunities for a "cohabitation" government to be formed. The first was when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) first won office in 2000 and appointed Tang Fei (唐飛) as premier, but the pan-blue camp, then enjoying a two-thirds majority, was not enthusiastic. The second was after the last legislative elections in 2001, when the pan-blue camp held onto its majority despite significant losses. The third was after this year's presidential elections, when, despite all of the tension, the pan-blue camp did not demand that Chen relinquish his right to appoint the premier. Having wasted three opportunities to push for cohabitation, the demands of the pan-blue camp at this juncture seem questionable.
If the pan-blue camp attempts to install a premier and push for a vote of no-confidence against the Cabinet, then Chen will dissolve the legislature and call new elections. If the opposition manages to retain a majority in the resulting poll, Chen will be under tremendous pressure to face the political reality and negotiate a blue-camp premier. However, a new election would be deemed a huge waste of time and money. It would be difficult to secure public support for this, and newly elected lawmakers would not be too willing to see another election either. So it's unlikely to happen.
The pan-blue camp has a 13-seat majority over the pan-green camp in the legislature, not counting the 10 independents. Nevertheless, cooperation between Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has its own limits, and from what Soong had to say on Sunday -- "the PFP will go its own way, and will not play second fiddle to the KMT; the door to [merger] negotiations with the KMT has already been shut" -- a merger between the two parties is not likely, and even simple cooperation could pose difficulties. Soong's words imply that political boundaries separating the pro-China parties are no longer so clear-cut, and that an era of political maneuvering and realignment is set to begin. If the KMT views PFP support as a given and challenges Chen for the right to choose the premier, they could be making a serious error with troubling consequences.
The people have spoken; what they seek is stability. Political parties should realize that a win-win model of cooperation is mutually beneficial. Chen should bring together leaders from the major parties for a frank exchange of ideas and compromise if necessary to find solutions all can accept. This nation requires stability and harmony, and it is sick to death of destructive political conflict. Everyone should take heed.