The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) clearly does not fit the role of a loyal opposition party such as one would normally expect to see in a democratic country. Features of a loyal opposition party include conceding defeat after losing elections yet holding on to its policy positions and ideals. They do not include launching fierce fights between ruling and opposition parties, but still conscientiously overseeing government policy, in the hope of proving itself and eventually returning to power. At present, the DPP has adopted a scorched-earth boycott strategy in the legislature, making it ineligible to meet the standard definition of a loyal political opposition.
As things stand, there seems to be no chance of this situation improving any time soon, because it has become a political tradition in Taiwan for parties to act as “disloyal oppositions” when they are out of office.
Globally, economic problems over the past few years have made everyone’s lives more difficult, so people are very angry. Political parties are at each other’s throats in a lot of democratic countries. In many parts of the world, opposition parties no longer behave loyally and sharp conflicts between governing and opposition parties are becoming more common. The US is one example of this trend, but this kind of conflict is particularly intense in Taiwan.
Although the 1990s witnessed even worse brawls in the legislature than the conflicts happening there now, governing and opposition parties still had a certain degree of trust in one another that enabled them to cooperate and secure major policy achievements such as constitutional reform and national health insurance.
Those days of mutual trust in the midst of struggle are gone. Mutual trust cannot be established by one side alone; it requires the efforts of ruling and opposition parties.
The first cracks in the edifice of inter-party trust appeared after the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) defeat at the hands of the DPP in the 2000 presidential election. Cracks then appeared within the KMT as former president and KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was swept out of the door by Lien Chan (連戰), his successor as party chairman. Afterward, even more cracks in the trust between ruling and opposition parties followed when then-DPP president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) held talks with Lien in the morning and only hours later then-premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) announced a halt to the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. After that, trust between the two sides broke down very quickly.
Lien and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) paired up to contest the 2004 presidential election. Chen beat them again, but they were unwilling to accept defeat, so they launched a long and time-consuming series of mass protests. Consequently, confidence between the pan-green and pan-blue political camps was further damaged.
However, the protests that took place at that time could still just about be defined as “contradictions among the people.”
That changed in 2005, when Lien went to Beijing for talks with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), even though China had missiles aimed at Taiwan. The two parties issued a joint communique announcing that they would join hands to oppose Taiwan independence.
In this way, the KMT escalated what had been a “contradiction among the people” to the level of a “contradiction between ourselves and the enemy” that required recourse to outside intervention. When it came to the 2008 presidential election, the KMT and the CCP launched an even more obvious two-pronged attack against the DPP.