Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 8 News List

The election was misinterpreted

By the Liberty Times editorial

On Wednesday China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) made its first reaction to the results of Taiwan's legislative elections. The TAO's spokesman, Li Weiyi (李維一), said that the idea of the rectification of Taiwan's name, touted of late by the government of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and "the recent provocative `Taiwan independence' separatist activities cannot win popular support." He also berated Chen's government for pursuing the idea of independence, which he said added to tensions across the Taiwan Strait and was damaging to stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

From China's official response it is clear that it has interpreted the pan-green camp's election defeat as an indication that Taiwan independence is contrary to the wishes of the Taiwanese people. China has branded Chen as the greatest disruptive force endangering stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lien Chan (連戰), chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), told his party's central standing committee on Wednesday, "from the performance of the Chen administration over the last four and a half years, we know that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are pursuing de-Sinicization and Taiwanese independence, and that Chen himself has proved totally incapable of resolving the cross-strait problem." He also saw the election result as a defeat for this de-Sinicization and pro-independence stance.

Furthermore, in their analysis of the elections here in Taiwan, the Western media said that the result showed a defeat for the pro-independence pan-green camp by the China-friendly pan-blue camp. In fact, these viewpoints betray a misunderstanding of the real significance of these elections, and are way off the mark of popular opinion in Taiwan.

The Japanese press, which has a greater understanding of the political situation in Taiwan, made a more accurate interpretation. According to the Tokyo Shimbun, the fact that the avidly pro-independence pan-green camp failed to get their majority in the legislature "simply shows that the public is in no rush for independence and does not want tensions to arise with China, and does not signify that the move to independence of the pan-greens has suffered a setback," and also that, "from the slight increase in seats for the pan-greens one can detect that a Taiwan consciousness continues to spread." The Asahi Shimbun said, "this legislative election result has limited Chen Shui-bian's political power, but one cannot infer that it is an obstacle to Taiwan's autonomy or independence per se." According to the Mainichi Shimbun "it is wrong to believe that these elections represent a victory for the opposition parties," and that "if China wishes to see a win-win situation, it must enter into dialogue with Taiwan." Finally, the Daily Yomiuri clearly states that "China would do well not to misread the will of the [Taiwanese] people."

To see the legislative elections as a defeat for the pan-green camp doesn't accord with the facts. In fact, in terms of the number of votes, the greens actually saw a slight increase (2.37 percent), with a gain of one seat. On the other hand, the pan-blue camp actually garnered less support compared to the last legislative elections, with a drop of 2.89 percent, and lost one seat. The problem was that the greens won over 50 percent of the vote in the March presidential election and were excessively optimistic in the run-up to these last legislative elections. The wide gap between their expectations and the election results created an impression of a defeat for the pan-green camp.

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