Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Political institutions need respect

By Chen Chu 陳菊

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) and I are old comrades in arms, but there is one fundamental difference between the two of us: Shih seems to think that now is the time to lead another revolution or a "sacred war," while I believe that Taiwan passed that stage a long time ago.

Over the past two or three decades, some people were sent to prison for their beliefs and others shed their blood, but we have achieved some hard-won victories. Now is not the time to engage in guerilla warfare. We must now give Taiwan's fledgling democracy a chance, otherwise it will never reach maturity.

What do I mean by this? If Shih's campaign to unseat President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is successful, this means that 1 million people can effectively force the president to step down.

The ongoing action in fact turns every article in the Constitution dealing with the election and dismissal of a president into empty words. From now on, we can be careless when we elect a president, and we can just as carelessly depose him.

Consider the case of the Philippines. In 1986, "people power" toppled the regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In 2001, the same popular force ousted the popularly elected president Joseph Estrada. Since last year, those who oppose President Gloria Arroyo have also been trying to forcing her out of office in the name of people power, forcing the country into a state of emergency for the second time this year.

Is this the road that Taiwan wants to walk down, a road that ends in the routine use of extralegal means to unseat an unpopular president?

Do we really want to become a "failed democracy" in the same way as the Philippines?

Taiwanese writer Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) hit the nail on the head when she said that because a democratically elected president can be both a scoundrel and a demon, the Constitution makes it possible to remove a sitting president from office through impeachment or recall proceedings.

These measures are not written into the Constitution to protect Chen but to ensure that the losing party in a democratic election does not attempt to reverse the results of the election using various irregular means and accusations.

If you cannot remove a president from office through those means, then you have to admit that your dissatisfaction does not outweigh the legitimacy the sitting president won at the ballot box.

What you can do is not vote for him or his party in the next election, but you cannot try to settle the matter by resorting to private actions simply because you can no longer wait to see him removed from office.

The question of whether the first family has been involved in any wrongdoing has only been answered by media speculation and leaked "information" from the prosecutorial system. Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺), a political science professor at National Taiwan University, recently said that this campaign of discontent has indeed seriously damaged the prestige of Chen and his administration.

Over the past three months in Kaohsiung alone, more than 50 percent of people have said that Chen should take responsibility and step down.

We cannot ask people to adopt a certain attitude toward the media, and whether or not one believes in these reports is a matter of individual preference. Even if you believe that Chen is corrupt, you do not have the right to enforce your verdict on those who cast their votes in support of Chen.

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