Mon, Aug 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan Thinktank holds forum on new democracies

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Thinktank will hold a two-day forum today and tomorrow to discuss the problems and challenges faced by new democracies since the "third wave of global democratization."

The theory that democratization has taken place in three distinct waves is expounded by US political scientist Samuel Huntington. Huntington believes the third wave commenced in 1974.

Guillermo O'Donnell, a professor at University of Notre Dame who will deliver the forum's keynote speech, said yesterday that democracy is a long and complicated learning process.

"Democracy has many flaws, but it is much better than authoritarianism," he said. "We should be engaged in permanent democratic critique of democracy ? with the purpose of making democracy more friendly to what is the only possible grounds for democracy, which is the recognition of the dignity of every human being."

O'Donnell said democracy studies paid too little attention to international factors affecting a country's democratization process.

Commenting on the US government's tacit cooperation with China's communist regime to hamper Taiwan's democratization, O'Donnell, an Argentine, said the US had a long record of pressuring other democracies.

The increasing ambiguity of US policy on supporting democracies such as Taiwan is "very, very worrisome," he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that what can be learned from the third wave of democratization is that democracy can be achieved via different paths and constructed in different forms.

Taiwan and other new democracies are suffering because the public has great expectations for their new governments but these democratic administrations have a hard time putting their promises into practice, Lin said.

This caused people to become disenchanted, but there is no turning back on the road to democracy, Lin said.

Lin said the advantages of Taiwan's transition to democracy were that the process was peaceful and gradual, but the disadvantages were that connections with the old regime had a negative impact on democratization and transitional justice.

"Domestically, we face the problem of division over national identity. Internationally, we are under the threat of China's rise," Lin said.

Lin said a sovereign state could only be created through the absolute transition of political power.

For Taiwan to become a "normal" country, Lin said the country's official name must be changed, a new constitution must be written, transitional justice must be taken care of and Taiwan-centered consciousness must be established.

Meanwhile, the second annual convention of the Democratic Pacific Union (DPU) will also take place in Taipei today and tomorrow. About 100 guests from 33 countries are expected to attend the two-day event.

Founded by Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) in August 2005, the DPU consists of 28 democratic countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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