Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: The disloyal opposition

By Marty Wolff

Bribery, embezzlement, fraud and other types of corruption were deeply entrenched during the 50-year reign of the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration. That system was inherited by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). But allegations of corruption and the Taiwanese media's fabrications have fueled harsh criticism of Chen, while well-documented, serious transgressions by the KMT, both past and present, are quietly accepted by the public.

It is obvious that one of the reasons for this is the historical and continuing pro-KMT partisanship within the media. The majority of the media confuse fabrication with fact, and present propaganda as news. The people need, but do not demand, better journalism. Unbridled partisanship is at once a cause and an effect of the nation's political irrationality. This letter is to call attention to a less obvious part of the political irrationality.

Throughout most of the 50-year KMT regime, political opposition was not allowed. There was just the KMT party-state government and the people. Any criticism of the government or act of civil disobedience, was the people's criticism and a demonstration of the people's will. As recently as 20 years ago, there was still no opposition organized enough to have a name: there was only the generic term dangwai, meaning "outside of the KMT."

Twenty years ago the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) emerged as the nation's first opposition party. It developed its role as a loyal and responsible opposition, and its candidates won many local offices. In 2000 its candidate, Chen, won the presidential election.

The KMT became an opposition party, but declined the role of a loyal and responsible opposition. Regaining the presidency, no matter what the cost to the country, was its only goal. It sought to frustrate and embarrass the government by a program of obstruction against every government plan, it disabled institutions such as the Control Yuan and it continued to demand that Chen go.

Although the opposition parties' use of their majority in the legislature is a clear expression of organized opposition power, the public seems to view street actions, including the present anti-Chen demonstration, as people's movements.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. From the recruitment of former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) as a figurehead leader, to the permission for weeks of 24-hour occupation of the streets granted by the KMT chairman from his perch in Taipei City Hall, the anti-Chen demonstration expresses the power of an undisciplined and disloyal opposition.

There will be no rhyme or reason to Taiwanese politics until people open their eyes, look at what the opposition parties do and measure the opposition parties by their performance as a loyal and responsible opposition.

Marty Wolff

Taipei County

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