Sun, Jan 11, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Resolute Chen sticks to his guns

MAN OF THE MOMENTNever one to wither in the face of adversity and opposition, President Chen Shiu-bian is determined to follow through on his democratic ideals

By Tenson Kao , NEW TAIWAN MAGAZINE

President Chen Shui-bian stands next to a symbolic copy of "A New Taiwan Constitution" during an event in Kaohsiung in October. The event was aimed at promoting public referendums and the creation of a new Constitution for Taiwan.

FILE PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Why was President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) the man in the spotlight this past year? The reason is not because he is the President, standing at the helm of the controls over the nation's political and economic resources. It's also not because of his battle to secure a second term in the presidential office under the flag of pro-Taiwan ideals.

It is because he has conquered a myriad of difficulties in the name of establishing a new Constitution, determined to draw out a blueprint for a new nation. Come 2008, Chen, the "Son of Taiwan," will become the founding father of a new nation with the implementation of a new Constitution that receives its mandate via a referendum.

The results of the 2000 Presidential election reversed the roles of the nation's political parties, putting the long-time opposition party into office. Chen was not only the president, but was also a creator and writer of Taiwanese history.

In Chen's book, The Premier Voyage of the Century (世紀首航), Chen called Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) 12-year democratic reconstruction that began in 1988 Taiwan's first wave of democracy. Chen's election to office in 2000 is then the second wave of democracy.

Chen pointed out that during the first democratic wave, the debate revolved around those for and against revolution, pro-Taiwan localization and mainstream political thought. However, in the second democratic wave, the societal struggle was between those for and against democracy.

Concrete value

The party switch in the presidential office demonstrated the concrete value of democracy. Political switchover is a normal occurrence in democratic societies, but during the 2000 presidential elections, in which Chen recorded a landslide victory and which was a developmental leap for Taiwan's democracy, it met with protest and attacks from the pan-blue camp.

The result was a loss of political and economic stability that led to societal chaos. What had been an occasion worthy of celebration was manipulated into a tragedy.

The number of seats the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won during the 2001 Legislative elections significantly increased to 87 seats from the previous 70. In addition, the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) 13 seats brought the total pan-green legislators to 100. However, the People First Party (PFP), together with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), controlled over half of the legislative seats.

Having the ruling party in the legislative minority and the opposition party in the legislative majority resulted in resistance to all initiatives put forth by the Chen administration.

Why is it that the KMT can be counted on to oppose Chen's policies? Most people say its because the pan-blue camp was especially unwilling to admit defeat, given that James Soong (宋楚瑜) and Lien Chan (連戰) had together won 70 percent of the vote.

If the two had not split the vote, Chen would not have taken the presidential office with just 40 percent of the vote. The prize went to the third contender, leaving not only Lien and Soong unable to tolerate the outcome, but also their supporters.

In the 2001 Legislative elections, the pan-green camp's DPP and TSU won roughly 100 seats with about 45 percent of voters opting pan-green. High-ranking officials in the pan-blue camp asserted that Lee Teng Hui's departure from the KMT only removed about 5 percent of the vote.

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