Sat, Aug 22, 2015 - Page 8 News List

The changing face of democracy

By Neil Peng 馮光遠

In the past few days some people have begun to voice their dissatisfaction over Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) handling of the response to Typhoon Soudelor. Supporters of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) initiated a campaign on Facebook to recall Ko. Afterward, as predicted, many people complained that the threshold to achieve recall is too high.

In 2013, the Constitution 133 Alliance — later renamed the Constitution Citizen Group — was formed. We sought to make use of rights bestowed upon us by the Constitution to recall specific politicians from office, so they would never again dare to neglect their duties or hold the electorate in disdain. Unfortunately, we fell short by 1,686 signatories at the second stage of the recall process. However, this civic movement paved the way for the Appendectomy Project, which was established last year and has opened a new chapter in the recall movement. Both of these recall movements have deepened and consolidated Taiwan’s democracy.

Democracy takes on many forms. The democracy that Taiwanese enjoy is an improvement on the Martial Law era. However, under the so-called blue-green adversarial system of politics, many closely held democratic values and policies — such as the power for the public to recall its politicians — often lack absolute, quantifiable values to control that system. It is because of a lack of absolute values that apply to all that the above- mentioned campaigns to recall pan-blue politicians failed to excite pan-blue voters. It is only when a green-leaning politician becomes a target that it suddenly dawns on pan-blue voters that the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) defies public opinion.

At the creation stages many of the designs in Taiwan’s democratic political system, such as the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, often lack direction. Then, as it is implemented, an inordinate amount of scheming takes place which gradually causes a qualitative change in democracy. Added to this, the seeds of Taiwan’s democracy were sown on barren ground and polluted soil: It is easy to see why time and again, the flowers of Taiwanese democracy grow into abnormal, twisted specimens.

Taiwan has never suffered from a lack of debate related to the strengthening of its democracy. Nevertheless, it took last year’s Sunflower movement to integrate and stimulate the democratic momentum. Following a widespread deliberative democratic process throughout the nation, in addition to a far-

reaching online movement, we can see there is hope for democracy. Taiwanese youth have started to consider what rights citizens of a democratic nation should possess. Taiwan’s democracy has changed.

The public has recaptured the right to interpret and define democratic politics so that the political sphere might never again be the private domain of politicians. Some of those politicians who are beneficiaries of the patron-client system — both those we are familiar with and newcomers — faced the biggest humiliation of their political careers last year. These are positive developments.

However, one only needs to look at the demons and ghosts that have emerged from the Pandora’s box opened by Ko following his election as Taipei mayor to understand why there are some people who are unable to restrain themselves from using a natural disaster to try and recall Ko, who is trying to to publicly expose the capital’s “man-made disasters.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top