Sat, Dec 25, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan's national identity is split in two

By Chen Yi-shen 陳儀深

None of the political parties won more than half of the seats in the recent legislative elections. Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), led by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), will remain the largest party, it may well dominate the formation of the new cabinet. This is not only constitutional but also frequently seen in foreign countries.

For the sake of policy implementation and political stability, since the DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) do not enjoy a majority, it is a rational option for the two parties to form a cabinet with either the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the People First Party (PFP).

In most multi-party countries, a "minimal winning coalition" government is usually considered reasonable. Such a coalition only needs partners to give it the smallest margin, keeping its obligations to a minimum. However, for a country that faces a crisis, a coalition government formed by all major parties is often adopted to resolve the crisis together.

Although Taiwan's situation is abnormal, it does not face any immediate crisis at the moment. The problem is that Taiwan has a split national identity and a serious lack of trust between the pan-blue and pan-green camps. Consequently, many people are pessimistic about the possibility of a coalition government formed by the two camps.

The DPP proposed "a great reconciliation era, a grand coalition government" in an attempt to win the legislative speakership by cooperating with other opposition legislators during the so-called "February political reform" in early 1996.

The problem was that the campaign for Taiwan's first direct presidential election was taking place at the time, and the support ratings for the DPP's Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and his running mate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) were far behind those for the former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and then vice president Lien Chan (連戰). By calling for cooperation and reconciliation at the crucial moment, won't the DPP be misunderstood as begging the KMT for government posts? Wouldn't this interfere with the campaign focus of the Peng-Hsieh ticket?

The DPP cooperated with the New Party at that time simply to help former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) win the speakership. Such cooperation would have trampled the meaning of a reconciliation. Therefore, other campaign staff and I opposed the DPP headquarters' strategy of giving up the presidential election for the legislative speakership. We were even labeled as "Hoklo chauvinists" (福佬沙文主義者) who opposed the reconciliation later. What a misunderstanding!

Today, no party enjoys an overwhelming majority. Since the DPP came to power, it's more rational for the party to call for reconciliation compared to its move in 1996. Now, PFP Chairman James Soong's worry that the DPP will push for immediate independence and a new constitution doesn't exist at all.

Either a minimal winning or a grand coalition government is a possible direction that deserves consideration. During the decision-making process, the DPP should discuss this with the TSU in order to draw their bottom line for certain personnel appointments and policies. Finally, if the pan-blue camp really ignores reality and names its price recklessly, the DPP will win the public's support even if it forms a cabinet by itself.

The ideal situation would have been for the pan-green camp to win the majority of seats this time, and accomplish the construction of the public's "Taiwan consciousness" step by step. But since the Taiwanese people are not ready for this, we should let the DPP have a greater space to maneuver while saving our judgment for later.

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