President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would be wrong if he interpreted his re-election as a complete victory for his policies, because the development of Taiwan’s democracy appeared to be backsliding, a coalition of democracy advocates said yesterday.
While Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections ended peacefully, violations of core democratic values, including interference by business tycoons and foreign countries, posed great concerns to Taiwan’s democracy, said Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群), an assistant professor at Chung Yuan Christian University.
Hsu was among the academics in a press conference organized by the Association of Taiwan Democracy to voice their concerns on the sidelines of the coalition’s annual plenary session.
That interference, and the Ma administration’s numerous violations of basic democratic values, such as its suppression of freedom of speech and protesters, evading of legislative monitoring and violation of administrative neutrality, have jeopardized Taiwan’s democratic system, he said.
“Ma’s re-election victory would not legitimize those facts completely nor represent a public mandate because some basic democratic principles, such as the politics of responsibility and administrative neutrality, should not be broken,” he said.
Democracy should ensure that the public has the right to vote of their free will, but the just-concluded elections have failed to protect Taiwanese from fear and incitement, said Liu Ching-yi (劉靜怡), a professor at National Taiwan University.
Liu proposed the establishment of a legal system to safeguard Taiwan from threats and intimidation from foreign and corporate influences, saying that it is also an issue being discussed in the US after several US businesses were forced by Beijing to carry out undemocratic practices.
She warned Ma against misinterpreting his election win as a victory for his policies, since the election results showed that Taiwan is deeply divided with Ma and his opponent, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), both winning more than 6 million votes.
“If this was supposed to be Ma’s vindicating win, he should have fared better in the polls. His winning margin would not have slipped from 2.21 million votes in 2008 to 790,000 votes this year,” Liu said.
The legislative elections also reflected basic flaws of the current electoral system and the dire need for reform, said Lue Jen-der (呂建德), an associate professor at National Chung Cheng University.
The current single-member district system has resulted in unequal values of votes and the system has hampered the political rights of smaller parties and organizations, he said.
The coalition called for amending the Constitution to make Taiwan’s government a presidential or a parlimantary system, rather than the current system, and to increase the number of legislators-at-large, he said.
If this is too difficult, amending the election laws would immediately ensure fairer political participation as well, he said.
“We recommend lowering the threshold for parties to receive public subsidies; replacing the rights to register in elections by deposit with a petition; a transparent process of political advertisement purchasing; and organizing debates between various parties,” he said.