Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Democracy will prevail, hopefully

By Lu Shih-hsiang 盧世祥

The Taiwanese people and foreign dignitaries were prevented from enjoying the Double Ten National Day celebrations when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) legislators disrupted the event and red-clad anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) protesters took over the streets of Taipei in an illegal demonstration.

The capital seemed to descend into a state of anarchy, which posed a serious challenge to Taiwan's democracy and rule of law. Former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi called on prominent Taiwanese to step up and work to resolve the political unrest.

Political strife has been a constant during Taiwan's democratization, and it is usually stirred up by politicians. Perhaps if leaders respected by all sides could step forward, they could help Taiwan's young democracy end the political antagonism by seeking compromise and cooperation, which would be in the interest of all Taiwanese. However, upholding democracy requires more than just people; it is also dependent on systems.

In most democratic countries, the judicial branch of the government is an important instrument for resolving political conflict. As Aristotle said, the law is a way of ensuring rationality during emotionally charged times. Taiwan's political agitation is in dire need of a dose of rationality.

During the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed how the US, then just a budding democracy, used the law to resolve political conflicts. He said that almost all of the US' political issues sooner or later became legal issues. Like the US in its early stages, Taiwan still has plenty of work to do to strengthen its democracy.

However, political controversies in recent years -- such as the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the 2004 presidential election, the 319 Shooting Truth Commission and the founding of the National Communications Commission -- have all been resolved through the Council of Grand Justices or a judicial ruling. This clearly demonstrates that Taiwan's democracy is heading in the same direction as the US. A just and independent judiciary safeguards the proper development of democracy.

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) has proclaimed that if the courts do not produce the verdict that he wants for Chen's alleged misuse of his allowance for secret diplomatic initiatives, Shih will lead his red followers on a "siege" of the courts. This is a blatant attempt to intimidate Taiwan's democracy and its legal system.

External threats to judicial institutions are not the only challenge to Taiwan's democracy. The fourth estate, indispensable for maintaining and strengthening democracy, is self-destructing and losing its credibility.

Ever since the "Taiwanese Cultural Revolution" entered the mass movement stage last month, many media outlets have blatantly interfered in the political furor. News reports resemble made-up stories, "political commentator" has become synonymous with "liar" and even opinion polls are being manipulated.

The Chinese-language China Times has printed false stories about Chen retreating to his Yuanshan command post on the day of the anti-Chen protesters' siege and letting Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) lead a Cabinet reshuffle, and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) inviting former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Wang to settle the situation.

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