Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tsai Ing-wen Must Not Demean Democratic Elections

Tsai Ing-wen Must Not Demean Democratic Elections
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 3, 2015

Executive Summary: We call on Tsai Ing-wen to get off her high horse, and agree to take part in an election debate as soon as possible. That is the least she can do for democracy. She must realize that debates are not held on behalf of the candidates, but on behalf of the voters. Therefore as a possible victor in the upcoming election, she should remedy her own deficiencies in a timely manner.

Full Text Below:

The current presidential election represents unprecedented democratic backsliding. Early polls suggest that Tsai Ing-wen is a shoo-in. Election day is only 40 days away. Yet neither major party has held an election debate, within or without. The Tsai camp is using procedural objections to avoid any debate. But an election is not a shotgun wedding. Tsai Ing-wen may be adept at cultivating a positive media image for herself. But if the public is denied the opportunity to learn what her national policy is, how can they know where she will lead the country if elected?

The presidential election is a one-sided affair. The public wants “change". It looks forward to a change in ruling parties. The KMT, meanwhile, persists in infighting, leading to disarray. The public is apathetic. The KMT must swallow this bitter pill, and not blame others. But "politics is everybody's business". Democratic elections are not just about winning or losing. They are about policies and proposals. They must not be reduced to fundraising, campaigning, glad-handing, mudslinging, and meaningless theatrics unrelated to policy. People must understand the various parties' ideas and positions. Otherwise, elections will be devoid of content, and democracy will be deprived of its essence.

The DPP may argue that Tsai Ing-wen has already presented a five point program of "generational justice, government efficiency, legislative reform, transitional justice, and an end to partisan bickering". It may point to a number of white papers and claim that these reveal her determination. But lengthy policy papers drawn up by staffers and academics hardly tell us how Tsai Ing-wen intends to govern.

There are two reasons for this. Reason One. Tsai Ing-wen has been operating for years in the political opposition. All she had to do was engage in obstructionism. But if she is elected president, she must immediately switch to the role of governing party. That requires a totally different way of thinking. How will a political party accustomed to making trouble, transform itself into a responsible ruling party? That is something Tsai Ing-wen must tell voters. Reason Two. Tsai Ing-wen has issued many white papers. But making policy proclamations is easy. Implementing them is hard. Only close scrutiny will uncover the truth. Ma Ying-jeou promised "six three three". That promise came to naught. As we can see, untested political promises are nothing more than pretty slogans.

Going from the political opposition to the ruling party, means that one must cease obstructing the solution of problems, and begin facilitating their solution. This requires not merely a change in mindset, but also wisdom, ability, and skill. Therefore, the best way to verify whether a political party possesses such wisdom, ability, and skill, is policy debate. Tsai Ing-wen held positions under Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. She has had over a decade of experience in politics. She has been preparing to rule for eight years. Her election prospects are bright. She ought to be eager to meet the challenges of an election debate, and demonstrate her skills. But lo and behold, she has insisted that only her hand-picked media entities may host the debate, and has rejected debates with other candidates. Whether her behavior is the result of arrogance or anxiety is hard to tell.

Take a look at the US presidential election, currently still in the party primary stage. Both major parties have already held a string of policy debates. Hillary Clinton leads in the Democratic Party. Real estate tycoon Donald Trump to everyone's surprise, leads in the Republican Party. But all are required to comply with democratic institutions and take part in the debates. On Taiwan meanwhile, the KMT set a negative precedent by replacing Hung Hsiu-chu at the eleventh hour. The DPP primaries shut out other candidates from the outset. The parties are now formally engaged in political struggle. Yet they cannot even arrange a decent political debate. Voters are being limited to voting blindly on the basis of surface impressions. As such, how do the major parties have the nerve to claim that the ROC is a democracy?

We are not concerned that Tsai Ing-wen is “phoning in” her campaign. We are concerned that as president, she will “phone in” her national policy. Voters on Taiwan do not care about her governing philosophy. They do not care whether she has solutions for Taiwan's problems. They are perfectly willing to deliver state authority into her hands. How much respect will she have for voters who are indifferent to ability, and have no desire to distinguish between good and bad?

The public is concerned about cross-Strait relations. But lest we forget, Tsai Ing-wen spent more time and effort explaining her position to the US government than to voters on Taiwan. She rejected the 1992 consensus, then refused to explain how she would get around the problem. Her “legislative reform” has nothing to do with increasing legislative efficiency, and everything to do with gaining a legislative majority for the DPP. On energy issues, she cannot even draw up a green energy pie. Her promises not to raise electricity rates are self-contradictory, and rife with populist demagoguery. She cannot explain how her "New Southern Policy" and rejection of the “Red Supply Chain” can possibly sustain Taiwan's industrial development, or underwrite the construction of 200,000 social housing units or provide for generational justice. She cannot explain how public condemnation alone can amend Taiwan's "Food Safety Law" and ensure food safety. A series of debates would provide answers to these questions, and allow voters to know just exactly what she has up her sleeve.

We call on Tsai Ing-wen to get off her high horse, and agree to take part in an election debate as soon as possible. That is the least she can do for democracy. She must realize that debates are not held on behalf of the candidates, but on behalf of the voters. Therefore as a possible victor in the upcoming election, she should remedy her own deficiencies in a timely manner.

2015-12-03 01:49 聯合報 聯合報社論










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