Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 3 News List

A choice between progress and decline

Since the KMT has been opposing the reform measures proposed by the DPP, their definition of changecould mean no reform at all, according to political analysts

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party supporters wave flags during a campaign rally in support of the March 20 referendum in Kaohsiung last night.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

This year's presidential election, in which the two opposing political camps are running a neck and neck race, is an acid test of whether Taiwan can further deepen its democracy and continue domestic and constitutional reforms that will ensure the country's overall development, according to political analysts.

It is a race that leaves voters with a choice between progress and regression.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) terminated the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) five-decades-long grip on political power in the 2000 election by defeating the other two candidates, Lien Chan (連戰) and James Soong (宋楚瑜), who were both members of the KMT at the time.

While this democratic feat wrote a new chapter in Taiwan's fledgling democracy, the DPP, as the county's first opposition party, which has now become the governing party, faces tremendous difficulties in implementing reforms. Unaccustomed to the role of an opposition party, the KMT has fiercely opposed the DPP's reforms in the past four years.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) summed up the challenges the DPP has faced since 2000 when she said, "A new democratic government may find it difficult to implement reforms, because those who enjoyed privileges in the authoritarian era are reluctant to give up their power and wealth."

Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), political observer and sociology professor at National Taiwan University, said the biggest difference between the DPP and KMT's winning the election would be accelerated reforms if the DPP wins, and stagnation if the KMT gets voted in.

"The DPP and the KMT have striking differences in terms of their political characters, which will lead to an entirely different administrative outlook for the country. The differences lie in that the KMT is conservative in reforms, while the DPP asserts progressive reforms," Chiu said.

"Politically, the KMT has been talking about change, which is the party's main slogan in the current presidential campaign, including its strong campaign appeal to change the president. But change could be progressive or regressive.

"Since the KMT has been opposing the reform measures proposed by the DPP, their definition of change could mean no reform at all," Chiu said.

According to Chiu the reforms advocated by the DPP are aimed at promoting a political system that is diametrically opposed to the old KMT system. If the DPP is re-elected, it could continue its reform measures with more efficiency and confidence.

"Those reforms that have been introduced by the DPP government, including the financial reforms and the elimination of corruption, could come to fruition. Being re-elected would boost the DPP's confidence to comprehensively conduct its reforms, but the party would no longer be able to blame the opposition parties for obstructing reforms," Chiu said.

The situation would be very different if the KMT wins the election. The pan-blue camp is expected to discard the reforms advocated by the DPP and go back to its conservative policies.

The KMT has accused the DPP of stirring up chaos in the education system, although the current situation can be traced back to when Lien was premier. Now the KMT is insisting on a conservative approach to restore a modified joint entrance examination system -- a flawed and much criticized system that has had a profound effect on education -- to replace the multiple enrollment schemes for high school students.

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