Taiwan’s democracy has gone into reverse and been undermined by practices that bypass democratic procedures since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday during a campaign stop in Chiayi City.
It was during a meeting at Hsi-men Presbyterian church, renowned for its support for democracy and activism against the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) authoritarian regime in the past, that Tsai mentioned her concerns about democracy in Taiwan.
“The decline of democracy in Taiwan is alarming,” she said.
This year’s Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit rated Taiwan as a flawed democracy with a ranking of 37, down one from last year, while Japan and South Korea were both considered full democracies, she said.
The DPP chairperson then turned her focus on Ma, who is seeking re-election, and who said during a televised appearance on Friday that Tsai’s position on Taiwan’s national status that “The Republic of China [ROC] is Taiwan, and Taiwan is the ROC” was “unconstitutional.”
“Interpretation of the Constitution is not absolute, as the Constitution allows flexibility, which stems from tolerance of different opinions,” she said.
Tolerance is the keyword, Tsai said, adding that if Taiwan remains divided as a society and a country, it would be unable to move forward and deal with the enormous challenges it faces in the future.
Tsai said she disagreed with Ma’s use of national identity as a campaign tool.
In his platform presentation on Friday, Ma said the so-called “1992 consensus” and the idea of “one China with different interpretations” were both constitutional and had been the foundation of improved cross-strait relations over the past three-and-a-half years, adding that Tsai’s refusal to accept the consensus would jeopardize cross-strait engagement.
Ma’s mentality in his dealings with China over the past three years also suggested that he might risk Taiwan’s democratic values to achieve his own agenda, she said.
Tsai reiterated that Taiwanese remain divided on cross-strait issues and that a democratic process was therefore needed to formulate a real “Taiwan consensus” — the main focus of her China policy — to first find common ground before negotiating with Beijing.
On the basis of tolerance, Tsai said, anything could be included in the discussion on a consensus — including unification.
The way that the KMT turned its agreement with the Chinese Communist Party in 2005 into a state-to-state consensus without going through the legislature and consulting Taiwanese was inappropriate and violated the basic principle of democracy, Tsai said.
In the afternoon, Tsai told about 10,000 farmers and fishermen in Huwei Township (虎尾), Yunlin County, that her administration would protect the agricultural sector if she were elected next month.
Farmers and fishermen have too often been sacrificed during Taiwan’s pursuit of industrialization and her administration would launch a “new agriculture movement,” with plans to invest more public resources, encourage young people to work in the industry, raise compensation for natural disaster, promote domestic consumption and improve food self-sufficient rate.
Yesterday marked the first day of Tsai’s latest series of campaigns stops in the lead up to Election Day. A total of 36 large rallies are scheduled before Jan. 14.