Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Power must be with the people, not the parties

By Allen Houng洪裕宏

Over the past few days, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) have expressed their desire to cooperate with the opposition parties. It would be to the nation's benefit if rival parties were able to engage in constructive competition and rational policymaking.

Although such cooperation is a beautiful vision, the foundation for such cooperation is weak. The two sides have long been involved in a struggle and there are the differences in national identification. Only if the parties are able to rid themselves of political baggage and give a little will they be able to get what they want.

Hsieh has pinpointedthe main issue -- the conflict over unification or independence. Whether cooperation will be successful also requires mutual respect. Hsieh's statements that the government will not initiate a change of national title must be seen as an expression of respect for the opposition. The public's wishes should be expressed in government policy; when public consensus is wanting, there should be a dialogue between the political parties and society.

Opposition requests that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) amend its independence clause are, however, excessive. A democratic society must be able to tolerate a diversity of opinions, and demands that one's opponent abandon core convictions should not be a premise for cooperation.

The new Cabinet could build a platform for cooperation between government and opposition by adopting three principles: the rule of law, democracy and the separation between party and state. The principle of the rule of law stipulates that both government and opposition respect the existing constitutional framework in order to build coherent national identification.

We all recognize the Republic of China (ROC). Instead of spelling out "the one China framework within the ROC Constitution," Hsieh only has to say "the Constitutional ROC" and leave that to the interpretation of the opposition parties. The DPP can continue to promote "one China and one Taiwan," and the People First Party (PFP) can talk about "one virtual but two actual Chinas." No matter how they phrase it, the fact remains that the ROC is different from the PRC. This way of building national recognition on the existing framework can be exchanged for the opposition's cooperation in protecting Taiwan.

Taiwan is a democratic society that allows a diversity of values and ideals, and democracy is the main reason for Taiwan's existence and its most important value. Some may ask whether continued DPP insistence on independence and continued Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and PFP insistence on "one China" will mean that the fighting between government and opposition will continue as in the past.

Hsieh's division between government policy and social or political movements is correct. The DPP can continue to praise independence or initiate changes to the national title, but the Cabinet should set policies according to public consensus.

The formation of social consensus of course has to consider the position of opposition parties. Future cooperation or negotiation should be between the party caucuses in the legislature and between the Cabinet and the legislature, not between the central leaderships of the various parties.

It is to be hoped that the three-pronged policy emphasizing the economy, social welfare and justice and cultural development that Hsieh has proposed will be implemented. The development of the non-economic aspects of this policy ideal will form a necessary social and cultural basis for economic development. The only way to give free reign to the massive energy of the people is to prevent decision-making mechanisms being hijacked by parties, corporations, official experts or academics.

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