Taiwanese are used to the struggles of politics. These days it seems the media has little interest in the ongoing bickering in the legislature even with the legislative elections only a few weeks away. Just how a smaller legislature with different mem-bers will behave is still unclear.
All of this is overshadowed by the looming presidential election, now only about five months away and also very important for the country's future.
The legislative election is especially unclear as the media itself seems not able (or perhaps not willing) to cover the candidates and discuss the likely impact this election will have on the country's future. The senior members of both major parties are naturally focusing on the presidential election, despite the importance of the legislative results in January.
Out in the districts, voter interest seems to be focused on individual candidates, not on broader national issues.
In the presidential election, on the other hand, voters will hear and read more about national issues. The Taipei Society has done well to encourage a series of public debates on national issues by the two major presidential candidates that presumably will be heard by the voters and hopefully lead to a better understanding of the issues.
But there's a problem here, too. Presidential candidates and their senior campaigners frequently change elements of their proposals. Each party continues to face internal differences among individual members and groups. This is especially apparent in the more open Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The present system allows the candidates to rearrange or sometimes change issues. Inconsistent statements on the terms "Taiwan" and the "Republic of China" and what precisely these mean to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the DPP is an example.
The problem comes in that these statements do not necessarily reflect the intentions of the party or the candidate.
The two parties seem to have decided -- at least broadly -- on how they will lead the country if elected. The KMT wants voters to focus on economic issues, while the DPP wants voters to focus on Taiwan's political future. It is not a new difference between the two parties, but this time the voters will have experienced the two ruling governments and witnessed a much changed China. The results could make a considerable difference in the country's future.
All of this could leave voters overwhelmed, especially as many may have limited interest or perhaps even knowledge of the differences between the parties and the ramifications these differences could have on other countries such as China and the US. Yet the people will have to live with the results of the presidential election regardless of their level of awareness. These results could have profound implications in the years ahead.
Given the internal differences between factions within the parties and between the two major parties, there has been some effort to establish another political party.
Most recently, former president Lee Teng-hui (
Lee, as usual, keeps his eye on the future and moves one step at a time. It is doubtlessly too late to do much right now with only five months to go before the presidential election. There would be an enormous amount of work to do to field a candidate.
Issues vary across democracies. In the US, economic matters are usually the most important, but political matters are also key. The US tends to function more within the laws, the Constitution and the traditions of the long past. Taiwan has established its democracy peacefully, but the main obstacle now is the lack of a solid identity, making it much more difficult for Taiwan to gain acceptance in the international community.
The referendum about Taiwan and the UN continues to overwhelm the media in Taiwan, and the subject still turns up in Taiwan-focused media coverage in the US and China.
Its present uncertainties aside, Taiwanese politicians will continue to have a great many issues to ponder.
One would hope in the meantime that the voters of Taiwan will involve themselves in these issues as the elections near.
Nat Bellocchi is a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan and now a special adviser to the Liberty Times Group. The views expressed in this article are his own.
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