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Fri, Mar 24, 2000 - Page 13 News List

Making sense of the election

Following the election victory of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the attention of the media and the policy research community has focused on making sense of the outcome. Here are the views of four leading analysts: John Bolton of the American Enterprise Institute, Shelly Rigger of Davidson College, North Carolina, Julian Kuo (郭正亮) of Soochow University, and the Taipei Times' own Antonio Chiang (司馬文武)


On the transition to a DPP government John Bolton : Taiwan's democratic process has reached a milestone with the election of an opposition candidate. For the first time, the country will experience a transfer of power and enter into the era of true party politics, a hallmark of a maturing democracy. Antonio Chiang : I think we can learn a little bit about the DPP's governing style by looking at how it has chosen to celebrate its election victory. Prior to the election, the DPP bought many bottles of champagne, and everyone was excitedly anticipating a victory. But on the day of the election, after they learned that they had won, DPP staff did not open a single bottle. This is because they realize the heavy burden of responsibility that has fallen on their shoulders with their victory. Julian Kuo : Chen's government will be the first in which a ROC president does not enjoy a majority in the Legislative Yuan. It is possible that the presidency might face a constitutional deadlock, as the KMT-led Legislative Yuan might not forward the president's agenda. As a prevention against this happening, it is important that Chen form a coalition government, or as he calls it, a cross-party cabinet, in order to garner more cooperation within the Legislative Yuan.

John Bolton :It is understandable that the incoming government might have some doubts as to how cooperative a party that has been entrenched in power for 50 years might be in giving up power. Both the willingness of former officials to impart information and the independence of the bureaucracy have been questioned. However, as KMT party chairman and president of the ROC, Lee Teng-hui most likely will make sure that the bureaucracy respects public opinion and serves the new government as it served the old. If some people feel that they cannot serve the new government, they should resign. I want to point out that these bumps on the road are inevitable growing pains of a new democracy. There is also concern that those in the security and intelligence apparatus might refuse to cooperate with the new government, but I do not think we should prejudge them. Chen has said over and over again, before and after his election, that he will pick the best person to fill various government positions, regardless of party affiliation. That is a signal from Chen that he wants the transition to be as apolitical as possible, and would like to see his government as nonpartisan as possible. Both sides shoulder the responsibility of making this transition work.

On nation-building and the development of Taiwan's polity

Antonio Chiang : The victory is not just a simple transfer of power and another step toward democracy; rather, it is an opportunity to reinvigorate the intellectual, cultural and educational discourse in Taiwan, and a chance to redefine what Taiwan is to the world. For too long, Taiwan has been the KMT's Taiwan; therefore, this year's election is more significant than the one in 1996 when the people of Taiwan chose their president for the first time, because it marks the end of that era. Julian Kuo : Without the KMT constantly playing the scare card on the people of Taiwan, Taiwan's polity will become a lot more rational and reasonable. It can become a normal society, instead of living under the shadow of imminent Communist attack.

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