Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What ails France is What ails Taiwan

What ails France is What ails Taiwan
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
May 8, 2007

Charles de Gaulle, Founder of France's Fifth Republic

What ails France is What ails Taiwan
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 8, 2007

Nicholas Sarkozy's election as president of France has been characterized as a "hard right turn." The people of France are no longer willing to endure the "French Disease" of long-term economic weakness, political division, isolationism, and moral degeneration. Although Sarkozy's right wing views are controversial, his bold pledge to change France's plight has gained the trust of a majority of French voters.

Looking at France from Taiwan, this election, besides being noteworthy for changing France's own direction, is also noteworthy for its impact on the Republic of China (ROC) government on Taiwan. The constitutional changes we carelessly plagiarized from France years ago, specifically its "semi-presidential system," have resulted in constitutional deadlock. For the past decade, Taiwan's economy has withered, political opposition has escalated, and its international status has become increasingly isolated. What ails Taiwan and what ails France is somewhat similar. Observing how France is overcoming its debilitating illness, may provide Taiwan with a clue on how to treat ourselves.

Sarkozy only announced his candidacy in March, yet within a short time he won over the voters, mainly because he grasped the French voters' disaffection with the current situation, and proposed large scale reforms distinguishing himself from Chirac's government. Although Sarkozy is a Minister of Internal Affairs within the Chirac government, he does not shy away from expressing his own views, nor does he minimize the differences between himself and the Chirac government. Because of this, despite his background as a member of the ruling party, he was able to win over public opinion with demands for reform, and allow the international community to believe that he represented a force for change within France.

Compare this scenario with the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) "Four Princes," blindly following in Chen Shui-bian's footsteps, competing to show him their "love," eagerly awaiting his endorsement, as Chen Shui-bian continues manipulating the post-Chen political scene. The difference is like night and day. Taiwan's long drawn out election process wears people out, both politically and psychologically. When a ruler regards "appointing a successor" as something perfectly natural, the "will of the people" has long been consigned to to the back burner.

Sarkozy is a second-generation Hungarian immigrant, with Greek and Jewish ancestry on his maternal side. His diverse background made his election unusually colorful. Two years ago Sarkozy suppressed ethnic minority riots with an iron hand, provoking unease among liberty-loving Frenchmen. This is the principle factor behind the unrest in minority districts following his election. But Sarkozy's ancestral background and political ability seem to have alleviated this unease. It could be said that his election is itself an expression of French racial tolerance. Those still saying that "wai-sheng ren (persons from other provinces) are unsuited to be Republic of China president" please take a look at France's diverse and colorful roster of candidates.

To sum up, Sarkozy's prescription for what ails France includes: First, in terms of the economy, France must reduce taxes, reduce wages, increase working hours, improve the investment environment, revive a flagging economy, and reduce high unemployment rates. Second, in terms of international strategy, Sarkozy hopes that the European constitution, which has been ratified but shelved, and the reestablishment of friendly relations with US, will enable France to free itself of its recent isolation, re-join Europe and re-engage America. Third, in terms of social reform, Sarkozy advocates attacking corruption, crime. and illegal immigration, helping poor youths find employment, and addressing France's crisis of moral bankruptcy.

What ails France is of course not entirely Chirac's fault. It's more like a complication caused by France's "Fifth Republic." The unique characteristic of the Fifth Republic, is that it turned the presidency into the nation's center of political activity, while simultaneously weakening its parliament. Although Chirac did not expand the power of the presidency during his term of office, he underscored how unanswerable the president was to parliament or even public opinion. Taiwan perversely plagiarized this French constitution in which power and responsibility are out of balance, transforming Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian into "imperial presidents." Not only did the system not lead to "left right joint rule," it left a legacy of "Blue Green confrontation" and insoluble deadlock. From this perspective, isn't what ails Taiwan merely a new version of what ails France?

France's election reconsidered the problem of a president who had authority but no responsibility. It also called for a "Sixth Republic." The ROC on the other hand, chose not to include France's provision of run-off elections to ensure that the final winner commanded an absolute majority. As a result the ROC's elections degenerated into a vicious system of dog eat dog, inflicting immense harm upon democracy. Furthermore, Sarkozy will succeed Chirac after only ten days. The Democratic Progressive Party is promoting a two in one election, attempting to move the presidential election up to January, and to hold it concurrently with the legislative elections. if that is the case, the ROC will have a four month period in which there are "two presidents." The potential for back room deals and a power vacuum argues against such a rash measure.

Sarkozy is described as a "New Napoleon" brandishing a sword, sitting astride a rearing stallion. Perhaps that is an exaggeration. But without a doubt he is viewed as a force for political reform within the French nation. That being the case, are either Ma Ying-jeou or Frank Hsieh forces for political reform in 2008, when the fate of the ROC will be decided?

Original Chinese below:


2007.05.08 02:09 am


從 台灣看法國,這場選舉之所以備受關注,除了法國本身走向的變化,主要是我們當年憲改草率抄襲了法國「半總統制」,結果使憲政陷入僵局。尤其,十年來台灣經 濟萎縮、政治對立、在國際上更形孤立,這場「台灣病」和「法國病」也有幾分類似;觀察法國如何克服其衰弱症,或可提供台灣自我治療的參考。

沙 克吉三月多才宣布參選,短短時間即贏得青睞,主要在他抓住了法國選民對現狀的不滿,提出了有別於席哈克政府的大幅改革路線。沙克吉雖是席哈克政府的內政部 長,卻不避談自己的獨立見解,也毫不掩飾他與席哈克的歧見。正因為如此,他雖出身執政黨,卻仍能以改革訴求贏得民意,並讓國際社會相信他代表了法國迎向改 變的力量。

這種景象,比起民進黨四大天王亦步亦趨跟隨陳水扁路線、競逐他的關愛、 期待他的加持,而陳水扁更一心一意企圖操控「後扁時代」的政局,真有天壤之別。台灣漫長的大選過程,不僅是政治的消耗,更是人性的折磨;當主政者將「安排 接班人」視為理所當然,選民的意願早已被拋到腦後了。

沙克吉身為匈牙利移民第二 代,且從母系承襲了希臘和猶太血緣,這樣的多元背景,為他的當選增添了幾許傳奇色彩。兩年前沙克吉在鎮壓少數族裔暴動時的鐵腕,曾令愛好自由的法國人感到 不安,這也是選後巴黎少數地區騷動的主因。但沙克吉的族裔背景及政治上的幹練,似乎紓解了這種不安;可以說,他的當選本身就是法國種族寬容的表現。還在說 「外省人不適合當台灣總統」的人,請看看這次法國選舉多元多彩的名單吧!

歸納而 言,沙克吉所開出對付「法國病」的藥方包括幾方面:一、在經濟上,要採取減稅、降低工資、增加工時等措施,來改善投資環境,振興低迷的經濟,降低高失業 率;二、在國際戰略上,希望通過遭擱置的歐洲憲法,並與美國重新建立友好關係,使法國擺脫近幾年的孤立,重回歐美主流的懷抱。三、在社會改革上,主張加強 打擊貪汙、犯罪及非法移民,協助貧窮青年就業,重整法國的「道德破產」危機。

「法 國病」其實不完全是席哈克造成的,它更像是法國「第五共和」的併發症。第五共和的特徵,是使總統變成國家政治活動的中心,同時也導致國會的弱化。席哈克任 內雖未強化總統的權力,卻突出了總統不對國會負責、也不對民意負責的矛盾。偏偏台灣抄襲了法國這套權責不對稱的共和憲法,從而製造出李登輝和陳水扁兩個 「政治超人」;最後,不僅未能片刻實現「左右共治」,卻只留下「藍綠對峙」的無解僵局。由此看,「台灣病」不正是一個翻版的「法國病」?

法 國這次大選,對總統「有權無責」的問題作了重新思考,也提出了「第六共和」的呼聲。反觀台灣,當初修憲未將法國保證絕對多數當選的「兩輪選舉」的設計納 入,演變至今,已陷於一輪選舉的棄保及割喉苦戰,這對民主真是何其兇險!再看,沙克吉和席哈克的總統交接,十天之後就要進行;但民進黨推動的二合一選舉, 企圖將總統大選推前至一月與立委選舉合併舉行,果真如此,台灣將有長達四個多月出現「兩個總統」重疊的景象,勢將造成嚴重的政治黑箱及空窗期,實不宜貿然 實施。


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