Concluding the large “Fury” (火大) protest in Taipei on Jan. 13, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced plans to seek the recall of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators who have “failed to listen to the voice of the people” and possibly President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Such an effort, though deriving from justifiable anger at the Ma administration’s less-than-stellar performance on a variety of fronts, cannot serve as a stand-in for actual policy alternatives on the opposition’s part.
In fact, the recall of officials, which the smaller Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) has since said it would support, is a non-policy that, if mishandled, could undermine the democratic foundations of this country and end up hurting the opposition’s image.
Aside from making the DPP and TSU sound bitter for failing to secure more seats in last year’s legislative elections, recall plans set a precedent that could come back to haunt them in future. Most problematic is how one defines a legislator’s failure to “listen to the voice of the people” — and who gets to do so.
Although the “recall list” has yet to be unveiled, it has already become clear that the DPP’s definition of “failure” coincides perfectly with a target’s opposition to DPP policies. In other words, DPP policies and “the people” are one and the same, though the extent to which the people will have input in the recall decisions remains to be seen.
There is undeniable danger in a political party resorting to undemocratic tactics — however much one resents the policies adopted by some KMT legislators, those legislators were elected by the public — to solve problems. Unless a legislator has actually broken the law or it has demonstrated that he or she is undermining national security through his or her actions, their removal, much as that of government officials, should be conducted through democratic procedures. This is why elections are held on a regular basis, so that voters can use their retributive powers to remove the bad weeds.
By seeking to work around the system, and by having final say as to which legislators pass muster and which do not, the DPP and the TSU arrogate upon themselves powers that share too many attributes with authoritarianism for comfort.
And in the end, even if the opposition succeeded in removing reprobate legislators, they would find themselves in the same position as insurrectionists who, after toppling a loathed government or political system, are then responsible for running the country. Removing governments is the easy part; governing a nation is where the real challenge lies and for that, one needs a viable alternative in the form of policies that appeal to the public and that can be implemented.
Opposition for the sake of opposition, or the even more drastic removal of elected officials, falls short of meeting public expectations and by no means ensures that come the next elections, the opposition will be able to secure the votes it needs to make progress within the system.
The DPP is perfectly justified in mobilizing against the Ma administration and the KMT, as opinion polls attest to sky-high discontent with their performance. However, channeling that discontent is itself insufficient to turn the DPP and its allies into a political force to be reckoned with, and one that Taiwanese will be willing to give another shot at running the country.
What is needed, above all, lies in the realm of ideas, of strategies to appeal to the polity on both sides of the divide and to the ever-crucial middle ground. So far, Su has failed on that count.
The small Baltic nation of Lithuania last week announced that it would accept a Taiwanese representative office in its capital, Vilnius, and that it would establish its own trade office in Taiwan by the end of the year. This was more than a welcome announcement to Taiwan and goes far beyond the normal establishment of trade relations. Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis summed it up succinctly, boldly saying: “Freedom-loving people should look out for each other.” With these words, Landsbergis was purposefully going beyond normal diplomacy; he was also presenting a moral challenge and reminder to other democratic nations. A look
On a peaceful day in the open Pacific Ocean to the east of Taiwan, a US carrier and five accompanying warships were slowly sailing to guard the western Pacific. Another carrier battle group had just returned to its home port in San Diego. Suddenly, alarms went off as many intercontinental ballistic missiles were launched from the interior of China, flying toward Taiwan. Numerous Chinese warships, carriers, fighter jets, bombers and submarines were fast converging on the US ships. Not too long after, missiles, bombs and torpedoes were fired at the US carrier. The surprise to Americans was the number of
The Tokyo Olympics will perhaps be remembered as one of the oddest Games in the event’s long and checkered history. Held amid a global pandemic, spectators are banned from most venues, leaving athletes to play out their feats of sporting brilliance in eerie silence. Meanwhile, furious Tokyo residents wave placards outside some venues, calling for the Games’ cancelation. Adding to the incongruity of it all, the entire Russian team is absent, banned due to a doping scandal. That the Tokyo Olympics went ahead at all has been extremely contentious in Japan. Critics fear a mass outbreak of the highly contagious Delta
I was a bit startled last week when Legislative Yuan Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) suggested that the United States could extend official recognition to an independent Taiwan if China were to launch an invasion. While I think Speaker You is correct, I am not sure it is a helpful point of view. Naturally, there are contingency plans in Washington on diplomatic actions that could deter Chinese military action, but they contemplate the continuity of a democratic Taiwanese government that could survive offshore in exile if part or all of Taiwan is occupied by communist Chinese forces. China’s threat that “Taiwan