Two Questions Tsai Ing-wen Must Answer Before the Election
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 8, 2011
Tsai Ing-wen must answer two questions before the election. The first is, if elected, will she pardon Chen Shui-bian? The second is, if elected, will she recognize the 1992 Consensus?
These are major questions affecting the nation. Tsai Ing-wen must confront these questions in the event she is elected. If she refuses to answer these questions frankly, with simple yes or no answers before the election, her election bid will lack legitimacy. If elected, her refusal to answer these questions would lead to an unimaginable crisis of governance. Therefore she must provide voters with answers before the election.
Tsai Ing-wen has thrown her weight behind Chen supporters and Taiwan independence hardliners. The public is wondering whether she will return the favor by granting Chen Shui-bian a pardon, in the event she is elected. This is a question she can not evade. If Tsai Ing-wen is elected, the Green Camp will surely demand a pardon for Chen Shui-bian. It will demand "transitional justice." It may even take to the streets in protest. How will "President Tsai" respond to such "expressions of public opinion?" The Green Camp is not about to let this matter go. They will give her no peace. On the other hand, if she grants Chen Shui-bian a pardon, she will provoke anger among those who disagree, leading to political instability. This question will affect on the legitimacy of "President Tsai's" rule. Therefore Tsai Ing-wen must provide voters with clear yes or no answers before the election. She cannot evade these questions by promising merely that she will give them "serious consideration."
The 1992 Consensus is the premise and foundation for cross-Strait peace and development. If "President Tsai" accepts the 1992 Consensus, she can talk of "continuing the previous administration's cross-Strait policy" if elected. If "President Tsai" refuses to accept the 1992 Consensus, the current cross-Strait peace and development framework will be deprived of its foundation. When that happens, how will "President Tsai" deal with cross-Strait relations? She must answer these questions. We cannot wait until the election is over before they are answered. They must be answered before the election.
Tsai Ing-wen has clear positions on several national policy issues. For example, she proposes a nuclear-free homeland by 2025. She opposes the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project. She opposes "growth oriented" economic policies, This shows that she does not duck every issue. She only bobs and weaves when confronted with certain issues, such as whether she would pardon Chen Shui-bian, and whether she would accept the 1992 Consensus. But these are the two most important issues facing the candidates. If she persists in prevaricating, how can she persuade voters that her election bid is rational and legitimate?
Tsai Ying-wen can not duck these questions. For example, she originally repudiated the 1992 Consensus. She said that "You cannot expect me to acknowledge something that does not exist." Now however, she has changed her tune. She now refers to the 1992 Consensus an "historical framework," and as a "political premise." She no longer says that the 1992 Consensus "simply does not exist." As for pardoning Chen Shui-bian, she said only that she would give it "serious consideration." She refused to assume responsibility by providing a clear answer.
During the upcoming presidential election, these two issues will be the most divisive. They will have the greatest impact on public sentiment. Tsai Ing-wen is a candidate for president. She cannot refuse to state her position on these questions. Tsai Ing-wen is often reluctant to say whether she would demand the "rectification of names" and the authoring of a new constitution. She ducks such questions by saying they should be "turned over to the democratic process for discussion." But the presidential election is precisely when these questions should be "turned over to the democratic process for discussion." Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen must clearly state their positions on these two questions. The electorate can then express its feelings during the election. If Tsai Ing-wen refuses to provide answers before the election, she is in effect refusing to take part in the election.
Tsai Ing-wen is attempting to appeal to both the Green Camp and to swing voters. Does she intend to pardon Chen Shui-bian and accept the 1992 Consensus? Those are the most divisive issues for Green Camp and swing voters. Tsai Ing-wen hopes to win over both groups by refusing to answer. But in the event she is elected, she will have to. No matter how "President Tsai" answers, one of the two groups will feel betrayed and disappointed. She will no longer be able to stonewall. For example, if she pardons Chen Shui-bian, will swing voters find it intolerable? If she refuses to pardon Chen Shui-bian, will the Green Camp forgive her? And if Chen Shui-bian, who advocates "one nation on each side," is released from prison, will he permit "President Tsai" a single moment's peace? The 1992 Consensus has far reaching consequences. Therefore, she must state her position before the election.
Tsai Ing-wen must answer both these questions in the event she is elected. Therefore she must answer both these questions prior to the election. If voters agree with her positions, her rule will acquire some degree of legitimacy. If she evades these questions, she will not receive public endorsement during the election. If she attempts to flip-flop following the election, based on which way the wind is blowing, her rule will lack legitimacy. The nation will be torn apart. Relations with the Mainland will weakened. The consequences will be disastrous.
Tsai Ing-wen must provide clear answers to both these questions, before the presidential election, That alone is rational and responsible. The public must not permit her to continue obfuscating.