Monday, July 19, 2010

Discussing Democratic Evolution with the DPP

Discussing Democratic Evolution with the DPPUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 19, 2010

Incidents of physical assaults committed by the DPP within the Legislative Yuan are nothing new. The latest assault gave the DPP yet another convenient excuse to walk out of the emergency session. The DPP's tricks are clearly getting old. Let us take a moment to review the history of democracy on Taiwan. The era of reform was characterized by shrill slogans and violent acts. But martial law was lifted over 20 years ago. Yet the DPP remains attached to physical conflict. It assaults fellow legislators and sheds their blood at the slightest pretext. We travel the road to democracy, but somehow the farther we travel, the bleaker the landscape becomes.

Twenty years ago, DPP legislators assaulted their colleagues. They threw chairs and tore out microphones. They resorted to any and all means imaginable. They ended the so-called "10,000 year legislature." They promoted political reform and ended single-party rule. Their methods were radical, but received considerable public support. Their aim then was to make politics on Taiwan more mature and democratic. But the Legislative Yuan has been democratically elected for the past twenty years. One-party rule is long dead, as dead as the "10,000 year legislature." Two ruling party changes have taken place at the central government level. So why is the DPP still addicted to confrontation? Why does it persist in assaulting fellow legislators? Why does it persist in forcibly occupying the podium? Why does it persist in referring to majority rule as "majoritarian violence?" Does the DPP truly not realize that it is going nowhere?

Consider the spirit of representative government. The proportion of seats within the legislature are the result of popular elections. Legislators are authorized by voters to exercise law-making powers within the legislature, in accordance with parliamentary procedure. The power to legislate is the essence of representative politics. The current legislature has a Pan Blue majority and a Pan Green minority. This may not meet with the approval of the DPP, but it was a collective political decision on the part of the Republic of China electorate. Every political party must defer to such expressions of the public will. This is the basis of democracy.

The DPP has never won a majority within the legislature. The reason why is simple. It maintains an overwrought, extremist stance on national identity, and a narrow, bigoted view of "ethnic identity," or more accurately, "community group affiliation." As a result, it has never gained the trust of a democratic majority. Add to this the fiasco of the DPP's eight years in power, during which it proved utterly incapable of governing the nation or formulating a strategy for economic development. Its time in office only increased people's misgivings. The DPP stubbornly refuses to engage in soul-searching. Instead, it blindly lashes out in anger. Such behavior only leaves the public more disgusted, and only makes it harder for the DPP to make a comeback.

The process by which legislators are elected has undergone a long string of reforms. The reforms may involve the single district, two-vote system. They may involve the halving of the number of seats in the legislature. But the DPP took part in their passage and even proposed many of the reforms. The process by which legislators are elected to office is above reproach. Yet the DPP obstinately refuses to admit that a democratic majority considers its platform unacceptable. It endlessly resorts to stonewalling. It even incites and organizes street demonstrations. Such behavior is not merely high-handed and undemocratic. It shows that the DPP is unwilling to abide by the basic rules of democracy. Is the DPP truly unaware of these realities?

Elections are an essential component of democracy. A rational legislative process is an important component of democratic politics. The problem with the DPP is that it remains preoccupied with symbolic political gestures. It glosses over or avoids substantive policy matters. Over time, this deprives the government of checks and balances. It renders the legislative process crude and imbalanced. The DPP has long been derelict in its duty as an opposition party. Its irrational opposition to ECFA is merely the most recent example. Such opposition epitomizes the Green Camp's obstructionist attitude for the past twenty years.

In recent years, the Republic of China's democracy has stalled. A major factor is the DPP's refusal to let go of the past and move toward the future. During the early stages of the Republic of China's democratic evolution, the DPP made an undeniable contribution. But the Republic of China's politics has matured. Unfortunately the DPP refuses to mature along with it. An opposition party that can only assault fellow legislators is an opposition party that can only debase and marginalize itself. An opposition party that can only engage in mindless obstructionism, is an opposition party that has forfeited any right to lead the nation. How can the DPP possibly contribute to the growth of the Republic of China's democracy?

Look back at the DPP's path for the past twenty years. Look at what it has lost. It lost the enthusiasm and ideals of the "dang wai" era. It lost sight of the goals it set for itself. Twenty years is a long time. The DPP leadership has changed completely. Society on Taiwan has undergone generational change as well. The DPP would have the public believe that the assaults committed against fellow legislators are part of a "sacred struggle for democracy." Who, pray tell, buys into that?

The Republic of China's democracy must evolve. Both ruling and opposition parties must promote that evolution. We would like to remind the DPP of three things. One. The DPP must return to its proper role as a loyal opposition party. Two. The DPP must adopt opposition tactics consistent with the principle of proportionality. Three. The DPP must adopt a constructive approach to policy matters. Only by doing so can the DPP rediscover its purpose as an opposition party. Only by doing so can the DPP regain the public trust. A political party can refuse to grow up. But the public on Taiwan can hardly be expected to do the same.

2010.07.19 02:32 am










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