A group of pan-green academics including Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), an Academia Sinica research fellow, recently released a statement entitled "Democracy and the Moral Crisis of Taiwanese Identity -- Our Appeal to the President, the Ruling Party and Taiwanese Citizens," urging President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down to protect Taiwan's democracy and the moral legitimacy of the nation's identity. We respect their statement. In addition to being a system for arranging political power, democracy also provides citizens with an ethical community. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been growing stronger amid a growing awareness of a Taiwanese identity because the party has been able to find support in that ethical community ever since the dangwai days.
However, democracy will not mature simply by relying on the formulation of an ethical community. It must also build a stable democratic order and the systematic participation of democratic forces. The goals of arranging political power and enhancing the ethical community are not in absolute opposition to each other. The key point is how, amid conflict between these goals, to let democratic forces participate in a more orderly and responsible fashion, implement reform and raise the general public's democratic awareness.
Formulating an ethical community is the ultimate hope that we place in democracy, but day-to-day democracy is not always that simple. Whether from a legal or a responsible political perspective, how can we legally ask the president to step down when he has not personally been implicated in corruption or the covering-up of corruption, has not been impeached or recalled, and is not guilty of rebellion or treason?
If we require that the president step down for moral reasons only, the decision on what moral standard to follow would be subjective. The academics believe that a presidential refusal to resign will lead to a moral crisis. We believe it could trigger several different political crises and put an end to the president's decision to delegate power just as it is gradually being implemented.
The first crisis would be to alienate pan-green diehards from the current system. Chen's resignation would not be a moral example to them; they would think that he was being forced out by a long period of unreasonable pressure from the pan-blue camp and media. The pan-blue camp's longstanding policy of opposing Chen for the sake of opposing him, and their ill-intended and seriously distorted exaggerations have left a deep impression. If the president is forced down, these supporters will be greatly disappointed and feel that they have been treated unfairly. They will become alienated and maybe even decide to challenge the system, which would be extremely unfortunate for Taiwan's democracy.
The second crisis would be to bring Taiwan's political situation to the brink of chaos. After all, Taiwan is not like the US, where various regulations have been established in the operation of democracy, and the "rule of law" is far stronger than the "rule of men," enabling it to bear the impact of a presidential resignation. By comparison, there is no trust between the governing and opposition parties in Taiwan. It would also take time to resolve conflict among the DPP's factions. If Chen resigns suddenly, it would inevitably trigger greater conflict among the party's factions, leading to the decline of Taiwan's democracy.
More importantly, Chen has already responded to the DPP's call for power sharing and made adjustments to his staff, giving Premier Su Tseng-chang (
In the future, how will the Taiwanese people evaluate the DPP's performance? How will history judge the party that came to power on the back of its Taiwanese identity? All this depends on what the DPP government can do for the public during its remaining time in power. We believe that the cooperation between Chen and Su, which is stabilizing into an earnestly working administrative team, is what people want. Only by maintaining this system can the party regain the public's support and continue Taiwan's democratic reform.
There are many reasons to increase the public's understanding of democracy. Ethics is a guiding light, showing us the direction. Simply recognizing it cannot consolidate our democracy, and looking straight into it might blind us. This does not mean that we are giving up, but that we continue to move closer at a stable pace more appropriate to Taiwan's political situation.
Lee Wen-chung and Julian Kuo are Democratic Progressive Party legislators; Tuan Yi-kang is a former convener of the party's New Tide faction.
Translated by Daniel Cheng and Eddy Chang
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