The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) are planning a Taiwan Civil National Affairs Conference this year and have already held a preparatory meeting in southern Taiwan.
The meeting is to be non-governmental, because it aims to gather opinions on political and economical developments from all sectors of society to provide important advice for dealing with the crisis that has been created since the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) return to power.
Following the second transfer of power, the national economy has slowed to a crawl and shows no signs of being revitalized, while politically there are many signs that democracy is regressing.
Despite these problems, it is clear that with the new KMT party-state system, the government has no intention of calling a meeting on national affairs or initiate dialogue with the political opposition.
The most serious problem is that the KMT ignores public opinion and acts in an authoritarian manner.
Because of the party’s absolute majority in the legislature and its hold on the Cabinet, and because it has total control over both the Control Yuan and the Examination Yuan, the judiciary is leaning toward the government.
In addition, the party has never gone through any true reform, and after coming to power, the conservative, arrogant administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has shown that it has a neo-authoritarian party-state mindset. Many of its actions run counter to democratic principles and are creating the image of democratic regression.
The DPP and the TSU have not been able to regroup or make a comeback after losses in the presidential and legislative elections and the moral impact of corruption allegations against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his family. While this is obviously a problem for the opposition, it is also developing into a crisis enveloping the entire democratic system.
Recent discussions I have held with academics regarding the political situation and the country’s future have all come to the same conclusion: The KMT’s neo-authoritarianism is hurting democracy, but we cannot have any optimistic expectations of the DPP. Be it in terms of economy or politics, everyone is very pessimistic.
Over the past six months, this pessimism has spread among the public and the government seems unable to do anything about it. Not only that, it is also loath to consolidate advice from civic society into a solution, instead taking advantage of its total control of power. Calling a non-governmental conference on national affairs is likely to consolidate public opinion and put pressure on the government to change its approach.
However, judging from the government’s neo-authoritarian mindset, it may well ignore such a conference.
Still, an even more important effect of organizing such a conference would be to consolidate the strengths and knowledge of the opposition parties and other non-governmental organizations in an attempt to find a solution. To achieve this goal, the conference must actively encourage public participation, in particular the participation and support of youth, local grassroots and women’s groups.
Chiu Hei-yuan works in the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica.
TRANSLATED BY PERRY SVENSSON