Taipei Times: Since 1996 Taiwan has held four direct presidential elections. What is so special about next month’s election that you felt the need to establish this committee?
Peng Ming-min (彭明敏): This time is special because the presidential election is being held in tandem with the legislative elections. In light of the KMT government’s attitude toward China these past four years, not just us, but many in the international community feel this election could have a critical impact on Taiwan’s future.
Taiwan’s overall environment and historical milieu make the holding of a fair election particularly difficult. There is this party [the KMT] that is one of the richest political parties in the world — how it accumulated that wealth is beside the point here — the thing is that its enormous wealth poses a threat to the holding of a fair election in Taiwan. Also, given 50 year of authoritarian rule, it is not unreasonable to ask whether that mentality has gone for good or whether it remains in one form or another? As a matter of fact, some international observers such as Freedom House have said that democracy in Taiwan has regressed, hence we are very concerned about whether the elections will be fair. Also, the general impression among Taiwanese is that the judiciary is not very impartial or fair. All these are sources of concerns, and very legitimate ones, if I may add.
In addition, when we speak of the election, we are referring not just to the voting, but also the period before and after election day. Many people have expressed -concern about the four-month transition period [before the presidential inauguration on May 20]. If the KMT remains in power [after the Jan. 14 presidential election], then such concern would be minimal, but if another political party wins the election, then the four-month period gives rise to many worries. In fact, such a long transitional period [spanning several months] is very abnormal and I am unaware of such a situation existing in any other country.
The committee was established by about 20 people and it has received a very positive response from more than 100 prominent individuals who have expressed an interest in taking part. Such people recognize that this election will have a critical impact on Taiwan’s future and are keen to ensure a free and fair election is held.
Speaking of which, I would like to thank the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, chaired by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) [a KMT member], for identifying with the appeal for a fair election and making a donation to the committee.
What we wish to stress here is that the committee does not support one candidate over another, but rather demands a fair election. Fairness is the basic minimum requirement for any democracy, and without it Taiwan’s fragile democracy would find itself in a miserable state.
TT: Some have criticized the committee as being predominantly made up of members who are -generally considered sympathetic to the pan-green camp. How would you respond to that?
Peng: In any country, those demanding a fair election tend to be associated with the political opposition. Ruling parties do not really concern themselves with such things because being in power they are the ones most likely to employ unfair methods [in elections].
Some people when they look at the committee’s members, might well say that most are sympathetic toward the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP], but that’s because the party in power is most likely to abuse power.