Sat, Apr 30, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: What to do with Lien's treachery?

So Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) thinks that Taiwan is not a real democracy -- or so he told students at Peking University yesterday. Well, perhaps he ought to know. After all, the system of government that Taiwan has -- where it is not a remnant of the 1947 Constitution -- is the result of six rounds of constitutional reform, all of which occurred under the previous Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government. In that government, Lien successively occupied the posts of Taiwan provincial governor, premier and vice president, making Lien one of the principal authors of the current political setup.

It is hardly surprising, then, that he should be so flabbergasted that such an arrangement should twice fail to confirm his career trajectory into occupancy of the Presidential Office.

After a year of claiming the shooting of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was rigged to secure a sympathy vote, it was somewhat embarrassing for the pan-blue camp that the shooting was found to have been committed by a pan-blue supporter. When Lien, in Beijing, castigated the "partiality" of Taiwan's judiciary, could he have been admitting to the lack of a high-level investigation of possible collusion between the pan-blue gunman and the Lien campaign?

Unfortunately, when Lien belittles Taiwan's achievements in front of an audience in the manifest tyranny of China, it is something else that he has in mind: Taiwan is not "democratic" because it does not recognize Lien's droit du seigneur over the presidency.

Certainly, Taiwan's democracy is flawed. But ironically, these are in ways that benefit Lien. The KMT has retained its stolen assets and the pan-blue camp has retained the media dominance it acquired under martial law. The reason for this is that the democratization process was negotiated. Unlike countries that threw out long-serving dictatorships by a more robust process -- a revolution, for example, which would wipe the slate clean of the old hegemony and start anew -- Taiwan's current political settlement, if it can be called that, is the result of the KMT surrendering dictatorial power while being allowed to retain much of the political and social structures that underwrote it. How else could the pan-blue camp try to engineer a military coup to overturn the result of the presidential election last year?

Taiwan might even be too democratic. After all, amid the pan-blue-instigated instability after last year's presidential election, pressure was put on Chen to declare a state of emergency. There are some of us who think he should have seized this opportunity to bring about the revolutionary shake-up Taiwan has never had. Chen could have declared a state of emergency with pan-blue support, then used the powers it gave him to throw the pan-blue leadership and their legislators in jail, after which he could use the green rump of the legislature to legalize proceedings with an enabling act.

Such behavior is common in Latin America, where it is known as an auto golpe, or "self coup." That Chen resisted the temptation burnishes his democratic credentials, though a democratic step backward could have been the precursor to two steps forward. But now, because of Chen's restraint, the pan-blue camp is able to continue its work as an agent of China's expansionism, selling out Taiwan's freedoms for permanent demotion to an undemocratic "Taiwan Special Administrative Region."

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