Thursday, December 20, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

Out with the Old, In with the New
South Korea gives Taiwan a Lesson in Electoral Politics
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 20, 2007

Even though he was besieged by President Roh Moo-hyun and others on the eve of the election, Lee Myung-bak won by a landslide. The message was clear. The South Korean people wanted regime change. They wanted an incompetent ruling party out. No election tricks could change their mind.

South Korea's ruling and opposition parties found themselves face to face, daggers drawn. The public, however, had already lost its former political enthusiasm. Five years ago Roh Moo-hyun was elected on a wave of popular sentiment. Once elected however, his behavior was tyrannical, ignorant, stubborn, and betrayed the public's expectations. This is the main reason the public has lost its former political fervor. The younger generation in particular had high expectations for Roh Moo-hyun. But when they saw with their own eyes Roh's arrogance and decadence, the myth of the reformist ruling party was shattered. Chung Dong-Young, the candidate for the ruling party, was regarded as a clone of Roh and soundly rejected.

Given this background, the desolate mood during the election actually reflected a kind of calm. The public rejected Roh Moo-hyun, the lawyer. It affirmed Lee Myung-bak, the business manager. This reflected two changes in South Korean society. First, South Korea's old notion of "political turf," following a decade of tumultuous regime change, was swept away. Secondly, intense commitment to political ideology has been transformed into pragmatic concern for economic prosperity. This lowering of political temperature is a phase that people in a democracy must pass through if they are to become politically mature.

This election was essentially a test of strength between Lee Myung-bak and Roh Moo-hyun. Mayor Lee Myung-bak defeated President Roh Moo-hyun, on the basis of his record as mayor of the nation's capital. It was not that Lee had any personal charisma. Quite the contrary. Lee lacked the typical politician's polish and wit. Lee defeated Roh by virtue of his legendary restoration of the Cheonggyecheon waterway and his bulldozer tenacity. He demolished Roh Moo-hyun's ex cathedra sophistries. The key factor was the people. They decided they wanted to punish an incompetent ruling party and remove it from power.

South Korea's election has special implications for Taiwan. In both cases, the ruling regime lost popular support due to incompetence. Power struggles led to the indictment of major candidates, increasing social unrest. In the end, whether the public understands the Big Picture, and is able to successfully choose a new leader, will determine a nation's competitiveness and future prospects.

Over the past several years, South Korea's economic performance has been far better than Taiwan's. Nevertheless the gap between rich and poor, between old and young, has increased. This led to middle and lower middle class discontent and is the main force behind demands for regime change. In South Korean politics, the process of "out with the old, in with the new" happens very quickly, with little sentimentality. Take the Yeollin Uri Party, aka "Our Open Party." In four short years, a party that rose with Roh Moo-hyun, fell with Roh Moo-hyun. Althought the party changed its name and leadership, it could not win back the peoples' hearts. The voters' ruthlessness is a force for political change, and something to be reckoned with.

Taiwan's economy, meanwhile, is mired in depression. Yet we have people who insist on voting for Chen even though they are starving because of him. If voters forfeit their intellectual independence and blindly support political figures, what reason do political figures have to engage in self-introspection? Because Roh Moo-hyun lost the support of the people, he was forced to resign as leader of his party. Chen Shui-bian is knee-deep in scandals. Yet he is able to hijack the Democratic Progressive Party, force it to do his bidding, and continue dividing Taiwan. Chen Shui-bian is past redemption. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party hierarchy is content to accompany him into hell. No wonder DPP members are so demoralized.

The South Korean and international media still use "conservative" and "liberal" to refer to the nation's ruling and opposition parties. They consider Lee Myung-bak's victory a "conservative" victory. Similarly, the Democratic Progressive Party still refers to itself as Taiwan's "reform party." Alas these labels are no longer consistent with reality. Roh Moo-hyun and Chen Shui-bian may at one time have represented a force for the overthrow of authoritarianism and the implementation of liberal reforms. But once they assumed power they shattered their former image as idealistic reformers. They changed into arrogant despots who trampled democracy into the ground. These one-time liberals morphed into populist demagogues, leaving people with an overwhelming feeling of disillusionment and impotence. This was hardly democracy's original promise.

The Republic of China and the Republic of Korea have long been competitors. Citizens of both nations have long looked forward to democracy, reform, and prosperity. The ROC has obviously fallen behind the ROK in the economic realm. The ROC has always prided itself on its stability and pragmatism. But that is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. A new generation of leaders has appeared. How the two nations will compare in the future is something worth contemplating.

Roh Moo-hyun and Chen Shui-bian's political moves have been attempts to prolong their own rule by plunging the nation into chaos. If the people do not use their ballots to sanction them, then they are willingly handing their own destinies over to the devil.

無能的執政黨下台:南韓大選給台灣的啟示
【聯合報╱社論】
2007.12.20 03:01 am

儘管在選舉前夕遭總統盧武鉉和其他對手的聯手圍剿,李明博仍以極大的差距贏得大選。這項結果傳達了一個清晰的訊息:南韓人民一心一意要把無能的執政黨輪替掉,任何招數皆改變不了他們的心志。

此次大選,南韓朝野政黨雖依舊鬥得橫眉豎目,但民眾已失去往日的激情。五年前盧武鉉藉著強大的民氣上台,結果卻以強橫和愚頑背棄了人民的期待,這是使人民失去政治熱情的主因。尤其當年對盧武鉉寄予厚望的年輕世代,眼見他傲慢、墮落,認為執政黨的改革神話已然破滅;代表執政黨出征的鄭東泳被視做一丘之貉,原因正在於此。

在這種背景下,這次大選氣氛的冷淡,反而呈現一種特殊的冷靜。從「法律人」盧武鉉被棄,到「經理人」李明博勝出,反映南韓社會的兩項心理變化:第一,長年左右南韓政治的「地域主義」情結,歷經過去十年政黨輪替的滌盪,已大為消退。第二,民眾對政治的期待,由強烈的符號及意識形態信仰,轉化為務實的經濟民生追求。這種「政治退燒」現象,卻也是民主成熟化的必經歷程。

這場選舉,其實是李明博與盧武鉉的角力。李明博以首都市長資歷打敗大總統盧武鉉,並非他有何過人的魅力,相反的,他缺乏典型政治人物的圓滑和機巧;但他以恢復清溪川的傳奇和「推土機」般的實踐能力,打敗盧武鉉坐擁大權的空談和狡辯,關鍵因素還在人民決定要懲罰無能的執政黨,把它趕下台。

從台灣看南韓,這場選舉之所以殊堪玩味,除了兩國主政者都因無能而失去民心,政治惡鬥使得主要候選人皆官司纏身,因而加深了社會不安;更值得觀察的是,兩國人民如何反省大局、如何選擇新領導人,那才是決定下一階段的國家視野和競爭力的因素。

過去幾年,南韓經濟表現其實遠較台灣為佳,但貧富懸殊化及青年失業擴大,讓中下階層高度不滿,這是造成政黨輪替的主要力量。政治上,南韓「汰舊換新」的速度一向極快,沒有溫情或浪漫可言。以「開放的我們黨」為例,短短四年間,因盧武鉉而成立,又因他而備受唾棄,甚至整個黨更名、被併而消失,都喚不回選民的心。選民的無情,其實是鞭策政治轉進的力量。

反觀台灣,經濟一片蕭條,民間竟仍有「肚子扁扁、也選阿扁」的說法;選民若失去自主意志,一味盲目追隨,如何催促政治人物反省?再看,盧武鉉因而失去民心,遭執政黨逼迫退黨;醜聞纏身的陳水扁卻能挾持整個民進黨繼續供他差役,乃至繼續分裂台灣。陳水扁的墮落固無可救藥,但民進黨的自甘沈淪,難道不是它目前選情低迷的原因?

直到今天,南韓或國際媒體都仍以「自由派」和「保守派」來稱呼朝野政黨,認為李明博的勝出是「保守派」獲勝;同理,民進黨迄今亦仍以「台灣維新」自命。但在事實上,在現實框架中,這些標籤已名不副實了。第一,不論盧武鉉(或陳水扁)所代表的自由或改革力量,在推倒威權體制上雖有其意義,但他們執政的無能與顢頇,已將「改革者」的形象揮霍殆盡。第二,他們掌權時所表現的傲慢和專斷,踐踏了民主體制,也破壞了人民對民主的美好憧憬。第三,意識形態上的「自由派」,卻在權力催眠下走向民粹,並使多數人民產生濃重的無力感,這當然不是民主追求的目標。

台灣和南韓,一向是彼此參照的競爭夥伴,兩國人民也同樣嚮往民主、改革和繁榮。在經濟上,近年台灣顯然落後了;在政治上,台灣一向自豪的穩定和務實正快速消失;在新一波的領導人出線後,兩國下一個五年的競賽又會發生什麼變化,這是值得大家深思的事。

盧武鉉和陳水扁最近的招數,都企圖把國家的混亂從自己任內延續到選後。人民如果不能用選票給予制裁,就是自甘把自己的命運所託非人了。

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