After former Mainland Affairs Council deputy minister Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) was suddenly removed from his post, he said he had not known that politics was so scary. If Chang, who holds a doctorate in political science and was involved in politics for many years, cannot see the scary side of politics, neither can the public.
When former premier Yu Kuo-hwa (俞國華) was forced to leave his post in 1989, his wife made the same comment about how scary politics could be. Is politics really as frightening as they said?
Politics is the handling of public affairs and democracy is about politics by the people and mainstream public opinion. Both in theory and practice, politics is closely related to the public. Let us put aside more complex international or regional politics and concentrate on domestic politics: What is its essence? As citizens, we all interact in some way with the state, government, authorities and officials regardless of whether we live under a one-party dictatorship, an authoritarian system, a democracy, a one-man dictatorship or even a theocracy.
People’s voting behavior in elections and their regular political participation varies from person to person, and this has an effect on politics in practice. However, the essence of politics, power and power interaction remains fixed and rarely changes. Modern democratic theory is built on basic human rights — freedom, equality and participation in government power, including the powers of, and separation of powers between, the central and local governments, and the mutual checks and balances of the administrative, legislative and judicial branches.
The government’s powers should be determined and restricted by the people through the Constitution and a body of laws. Key government officials should be elected by the public at regular elections, and the planning, making, implementation and evaluation of government policy should be transparent. The public should have the right to express their opinions throughout this process and enjoy the rights of initiative and referendum.
There should be assessments of the government’s ability to rule, and it should take its accountability accordingly. This prevents government agencies from hurting public interests, and it ensures that government and semi-governmental agencies — administrative institutions, state-run enterprises, public construction corporations, business entities and foundations constituted as legal entities indirectly invested in by the government — and their operators abide by the law when performing their duties, improve and give full play to their specialties, improve their ability to govern and make high-quality public policies.
The operation of political power is an authoritarian distribution of social values. In today’s diverse democratic societies, the public and the private sectors are becoming increasingly separated, and the scale of the private sector is constantly expanding. However, the government’s influence over political, economic, social, cultural and other aspects should not be ignored.
Due to the influence of globalization, internationalization and the information society, Taiwan’s government is exercising certain rights on behalf of the public when dealing with international affairs, especially cross-strait affairs, so every Taiwanese is surrounded by politics.