Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Voters to blame for chaos in legislature

By Andrew Cheng 鄭泰安

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) challenged the opposition camp to initiate a "no-confidence vote" on his Cabinet, so President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) can dissolve the Sixth Legislative Yuan and call a new election. It would be worthy of a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records if the Cabinet in a democratic country were overthrown by a no-confidence vote pushed by the ruling party itself.

Why have Taiwan's democratic politics declined to this point? In countries with years of experience in party politics, opposition parties are relatively rational. They do not "oppose for the sake of opposing," disregarding the safety and welfare of their nation and its people.

Take for example the disaster caused after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans last month. The White House and the US Congress are competing with each other to provide aid, instead of passing the buck.

What is more interesting is that lawmakers from both parties are now pointing fingers at US President George W. Bush. Why? The answer is very simple: They are responding to public opinion.

In democratic countries in the East, the principle of upholding overall national interests is barely respected due to the traditional feudal culture here. Take for example Japan, which has adopted a Cabinet system. In the past, its political stability relied on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). But Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi recently resolutely dissolved parliament, disregarding the opposition of some legislators in his party who opposed the privatization of Japan's postal system. It was a major gamble in the eyes of political observers.

Still, the Japanese people passed this test of their political capacity and wisdom, and made a choice to support Koizumi and his party based on his resolve to implement the reforms.

Looking at the development of party politics in Taiwan since 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won the presidency twice. The opposition parties, led by their party chairmen, have been unable to accept defeat, and have employed a "scorched earth policy" in the legislature, leaving numerous policies suspended in mid-air.

Meanwhile, the DPP has happily taken this as an excuse for its failure to implement policies. With the dogfight continuing to this day, how can we realize a democratic country's most fundamental principle: party politics with political accountability?

After thinking about this thoroughly, I believe that the problem is a result of bad choices made by voters in the presidential and legislative elections since 2000. Since the people's understanding of democracy has not yet matured to a certain level, whenever the presidency and the legislative majority are held by different political camps, it is impossible for the opposition to participate in politics rationally, making today's chaos seem inevitable.

The voters did not put the legislature in the hands of the opposition camp out of a collective awareness of political balance. They did so because of a tendency to choose individual candidates rather than parties in legislative elections. Candidates' grassroots connections and the practice of vote-buying also have an effect.

In the next legislative elections -- whether they come about because opposition parties initiate a no-confidence vote on Hsieh's Cabinet, or as scheduled in 2007 -- voters should consider supporting candidates who belong to the same party as the president.

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