Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Democracy doesn’t end after the elections

By Michael Hsiao 蕭新煌

The strong cold front that swept across Taiwan last week was not enough to stop people from attending a forum organized by the Taiwan Thinktank. As for so many other Taiwanese, the cold weather was of little importance compared with their worries about whether Taiwan’s democracy will make it through its severe winter.

The forum brought together professors who have devoted most of their lives to the struggle for democracy, chairpersons of political opposition parties who have been fighting against the one-party state, young academics who rarely participate in activities outside of their classrooms, research rooms or conference rooms, and students too young to remember the authoritarian system. They all agreed that the results of the legislative and presidential elections held early last year indeed have resulted in democratic regression in Taiwan.

The only contribution that China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) made to Taiwan was probably the fact that his visit alerted many people to how the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in just seven months has paralyzed the nation’s legislative supervision, let police brutality run amok and impaired the independence of the judiciary.

Any of this was unimaginable during the past eight years. It is even less acceptable to see that the government’s arrogance and unscrupulous behavior may have sprung from its landslide victories in democratic elections, and that it is this that has given the government the boldness to use the state apparatus to oppress human rights in Taiwan and externally to use the KMT-Chinese Communist Party platform to erode the nation’s sovereignty.

While the purpose of a transfer of political power is to consolidate human rights and sovereignty, the KMT-led government has done the exact opposite.

As it managed to secure a two-thirds majority in the legislative elections and win more than 50 percent of the vote in the presidential election, it is hard to challenge its democratic legitimacy. It is precisely this that is the source of our worries.

We first thought Taiwan’s democracy was on the road to irreversible progress since 2000, but we have now painfully come to realize two things. Many aspects of Taiwan’s democratic reforms are incomplete.

Old systems and mindsets that were not abandoned over the past eight years have staged a rapid comeback.

We have also come to realize that we cannot rely on victories in democratic elections alone to put us on the road toward democratic transformation.

This is a mistake that the Democratic Progressive Party, the former ruling party and now biggest opposition party, must recognize, and it is the party’s unshakable responsibility to resolve the consequences of this mistake.

Although elections certainly play an important role in democracy, only by insisting on democratic reforms and the development of human rights can we help Taiwan consolidate its democratic foundation.

All Taiwanese concerned over the nation’s future must have the courage to take action in the face of Taiwan’s democratic regression. Carrying out democratic reforms is not a dinner party.

Although Taiwanese democracy is suffering through a severe winter, we should unite various social forces and equip ourselves with knowledge.

Only then can we generate a force capable of bringing public attention to Taiwan’s democratic crisis and preventing the government from continuing to violate human rights so that we can put Taiwanese democracy back on the right track.

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