Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Reshaping the political landscape

By Wang Yeh-li 王業立

Since last month's legislative elections, the development of Taiwan's political situation has been weird and unstable. The original competition between the pan-blue and the pan-green camps has suddenly changed into a triangular dynamic between the Demo-cratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP). Just after the elections, the KMT boasted about its victory, but now the ground seems to have shifted under its feet. The interaction among the three in the next couple weeks may redefine the political landscape.

In fact, prior to the 2001 legislative elections, PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) appealed to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to consider a coalition government if none of the three parties won a majority of legislative seats. If the party winning the greatest number of seats wanted to form a coalition government with the PFP, then, rationally speaking, the PFP would not say no.

But, after the 2001 legislative elections, Chen opted for a minor-ity government, and the KMT and the PFP formed an opposition alliance. As a result, little has been achieved in the development of democratic politics over the last three years. Now the issue of a coalition government is back.

In Western democracies, coalition governments are common. Since World War II, more than 60 percent of governments in European countries have been coalition governments. In Taiwan, the era of the rule of a single party with a majority in the legislature has ended. Taiwanese people remain fearful of the painful experience of the minority government in the past four years. Therefore a coalition government should become an important choice to consider for responsible politicians.

Does a coalition government necessarily have to be formed by the party with the most seats in parliament? Usually this is the case, and this method gives the government greater legitimacy since they have more popular support. But there are exceptions.

Take Japan, for example. In the 1993 elections, although the Liberal Democratic party won 223 out of total of 511 parliamentary seats -- more than three times as many as the party in second place, the Japan Socialist Party -- they could not command a majority, and so handed over the reins of government they had held for 38 years.

In Austria's 1999 elections, although the Social Democratic Party won the most seats, they were still unable to form a Cabi-net. And in the 2000 parliamentary elections in South Korea, although the Grand National Party still held onto the largest number of seats in parliament, it was not able to join Kim Dae-jung's ruling alliance. When no party wins more than half the seats in parliament, being the largest party becomes less important than being able to form a majority alliance.

With the distribution of each party's seats after the sixth legislative elections, only the KMT, DPP and PFP are in a position to form a majority. Forming any kind of bipartisan alliance would be a "minimum winning coalition." In other words, the three major parities are like three sides of a triangle: any two sides, no matter how short one of of them is, will always exceed the length of the third side.

According to the concept of the "power index" in game theory, in the bargaining process involved in forming the "minimum winning coalition," the power index of each party is equal (with each accounting for one-third). So although the number of seats won by the three parties is different, after the formation of any minimum winning coalition, the allocation of political resources cannot be done simply according to the proportion of seats won.

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