Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Democratic stability is the priority for Taiwan

By Chang Wei-chia 張維嘉

Local newspapers continue to publish the views of the pan-green academics who have appealed to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down. However, the question of whether Chen truly lacks integrity remains unanswered.

Perhaps we should all take a deep breath. Our judgment regarding Chen would be enhanced by proof of any wrongdoing on his part produced by the proper authorities. The same spin doctors that claimed that the March 19 shooting was an elaborate conspiracy to keep Chen in the Presidential Office are behind the scenes of the current movement to unseat him.

Media and politicians who would clearly benefit from Chen stepping down are capitalizing on rumors and hearsay to heap more mud on him. Dancing to their tune is dangerous. As for the pan-green academics, the "muckrakers" are probably laughing at them behind their backs.

Whether moral principles should take precedence over legal responsibilities is a matter of opinion, but I'm sure that the above intellectuals understand that politics is about power. When wielded through the democratic process or by a popular movement, moral principles can be used as a standard for legitimacy. But the reality is that in such matters, political stability is the main determinant for both the rulers and their people.

Of course, political stability is also the staple excuse that dictators and authoritarian governments use when nixing democratic reform. Former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos and China's Mao Zedong (毛澤東) -- they all hid behind the banner of preserving stability; they used this as a weapon to strike out against their enemies and "destabilizing elements."

However, political stability in a democracy refers to something different: The preservation of pluralism, especially when a balance needs to be struck between social stability and people's elevated awareness of their own rights.

Political stability in a democracy is about four things: Putting the people's minds at ease by creating jobs; creating wealth for the people; ensuring dependable, consistent constitutional governance; and suppressing reactionary forces that seek to install an authoritarian government.

Taiwan's Constitution addresses this need for stability by limiting the presidential term to four years, setting a high bar for the recall of a president and stipulating that criminal charges cannot be brought against a president unless he or she is guilty of rebellion or treason.

In light of the need to preserve stability, appealing to Chen to resign purely on moralistic grounds lacks legitimacy. Taiwan is rife with politicians with hidden agendas leveling scandalous accusations at one another, and the media plays along by orchestrating witch hunts. Moreover, scandals in Taiwan are like soap operas with continuously unfolding plots. Some say that Taiwan is in a stage of democratic infancy, which may be true. But more accurately, Taiwan is caught up in a nasty political dogfight.

Political stability is a basic expectation of the people. Of course, we also expect Chen to fulfill his commitments to the people. But while academics should continue demanding that Chen govern with integrity, a more pressing task awaits them: Revising the Constitution, which lacks certain mechanisms needed to further promote stability and ensure dependable, consistent constitutional governance.

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