Civil society steps up to lead
The Sunflower movement represents the latest milestone in the development of Taiwan’s democracy. However, it has largely come about as a result of failings in the nation’s democratic practice.
The movement is primarily the result of the failure of the nation’s two major political parties.
Of course the failings of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are foremost. For the KMT, electoral wins are seen as a mandate to rule by fiat. However, its actions have become increasingly divorced from the will of the people and ultimately provoked a seemingly radical course of protest action.
As the main opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party has been actively campaigning against the KMT for the last six years.
However, despite regular large-scale street protests and blocking tactics in the legislature, it has largely failed to keep the KMT in check and to build overwhelming public support, and it was under these circumstances that the Sunflower movement stepped in to take action.
It is amazing that this group of students and other activists, who have a fraction of the resources of the major political parties, have mobilized so effectively to defend Taiwan’s democracy from abuse of power.
The biggest lesson from all this is that civil society has proven to be a more powerful force for change than elections.
For a long time the nation has been very good at holding elections and peacefully transferring power between parties.
However, in between these elections, democracy has been forgotten as the executive branch governed to further its own interests without regard for the will of the people.
The Sunflower movement marks a change in all this.
Taiwanese democracy has shifted from a shallow “electoralism” to a true practice of citizenship.
Politicians can no longer simply campaign for votes. They now need to practice good governance and be accountable to the citizens in the gaps between election campaigns.