Wed, Jan 05, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Restoring dignity to politics

After President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced in his New Year's address that the new Cabinet would be a "Cabinet of negotiation," hopes have grown that the government and the opposition will be able to deal with the ill will in the legislature.

The Chen administration is the first in this country to occupy government without a majority in the legislature. Because it failed to build channels for cross-party negotiations, conflict between the parties increased.

Unfortunately, owing to the pressure created by the March presidential election and last month's legislative elections, confrontation between the government and the opposition intensified, with a "cut-throat war" sharpening the tongues of those plying for votes.

The public is fed up with this political climate, a fact reflected in the lowest-ever turnout at the legislative elections. A call for stability and continuing economic growth has emerged as mainstream sentiment. Political differences must therefore be put aside so that a mechanism for cross-party negotiation can allow political and economic development to be discussed properly. It is feasible that with a coalition Cabinet, responsibilities could be shared in a way that reflects majority opinion. Yet just because it has a majority, the opposition should not simply block government policy at every opportunity -- as it has done to date, more or less -- thereby not allowing the legislature to get any work done and harming the nation's productivity.

The government should cease using appointments as bait, and instead approach the opposition with a more sharing attitude. Before cross-party negotiations commence, the government should not hint that any specific post will be earmarked for the opposition. Doing so would rile the more propitious among opposition lawmakers because they would sense that the government was seeking to emphasize the means of gaining office rather than the importance of the office itself.

For example, during campaigning for the legislative elections, Chen on at least two occasions mentioned possible appointments for the Control Yuan. This put opposition politicians in the uncomfortable position of having to agree to swapping votes in return for the spoils.

On the other hand, the opposition should not be too greedy and demand that government be formed by the majority party in the legislature or other unconstitutional suggestions. If Chen wishes to include opposition members in his Cabinet, then that is his prerogative under the Constitution. But the opposition parties must not forget themselves in the flush of victory and in so doing impair the machinery of constitutional government.

The opposition should exercise self-restraint, refrain from imposing extremist takes on every piece of legislation put forward by the government, nor should it cause conflict and obstruct genuine attempts at co-operation. This is what a "loyal" opposition must do.

Cross-party cooperation should be seen as an effort by both political camps to build a foundation of mutual trust. As political resources are controlled by the government, it should make a gesture of sincerity and engender a sense of self-respect within the opposition. Only in this way will cooperation provide the best results, and only in this way can the public be free of the recurring stalemate in which a legislature does not do its duty and plays havoc with the public good.

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