Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Inter-party cooperation is the way forward

By Antonio Chiang江春男

Seeing the nation's overheated political scene starting to cool down is a good thing. A positive atmosphere for cross-party negotiation and cooperation is beginning to emerge. Since the overall blue-green division of the political map has pretty much settled, interparty bickering is not going to change anything. Nor should the parties seek to mobilize their supporters. It is time for them to sit down and talk.

Democratic politics are essentially all about negotiation, persuasion and reconciliation. Under a Cabinet system, the result is often a coalition government. At first, it is difficult to work with people with different ideas and tolerate different opinions, but doing this is the first step toward a democratic culture.

In the early 1990s, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party lost its hold on power and was forced to form a coalition government with the Democratic Socialist Party. Since they upheld totally different ideals, the coalition was dubbed a yagou, a term used to refer to an illicit intimate relationship. The coalition did not last long but the Japanese people benefited from it and it also shook up Japan's factional politics.

In this country, the governing and opposition parties do not differ significantly over social and economic policies. It is only on cross-strait relations that they do not see eye to eye. Ultimately, their similarities are greater than their differences. But during the elections, each side either exaggerated or distorted their opponent's propositions. As a consequence of the media's frenzied over-interpretation, the basically identical electoral propositions soon deteriorated into a war between good and evil.

Now many people have proposed that leaders of political parties meet, with the meetings televised so the whole process is transparent. It is easier to talk through misunderstandings and solve differences when we are calm. But faced with the TV cameras, people often change their attitudes or posture. Without a basic sense of mutual trust, all meetings will be meaningless.

Some might assume that the cooperation between the governing and the opposition parties is no more than a division of political spoils, bribery, treachery and betrayal. This kind of thinking is the product of authoritarian government. In a democracy, the cooperation between the governing and the opposition parties is necessary and normal. Cooperation over policy makes a country operate on the right track of democracy. This is something we have to learn.

The last two presidential and legislative elections fueled animosity between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Chinese Nationalist Party(KMT) Chairman Lien-chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜). The relationship between the ruling and opposition parties deteriorated, ethnic issues were stirred up and cross-strait relations stalled.

Better relations between the government and opposition will help improve ethnic harmony as well as cross-strait relations. Over the past four years, the feuds between Chen, Lee, Lien and Soong have aggravated ideological issues and ethnic tensions.

People followed the lead of these politicians blindly and became inextricably tangled up in the conflicts. Fortunately, the political fervor is now starting to cool down. It is a good time for us to come to our senses.

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