By Jou Yi-cheng 周奕成 TAIPEI TIMES
Friday, May 25, 2007,
The results of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) legislative primaries have two political implications. One is that some talented politicians from different generations were eliminated from the legislature. The other is that the "democratic war" between Taiwan's two sides will get even fiercer. Most of the politicians who were eliminated were better known as rational politicians than political warriors. The intensification of Taiwan's "democratic war" is both the cause and result of the rise of the warriors and the decline of the doves within the DPP.
There are two factors in Taiwan's constitutional structure that have contributed to the rise of the warriors and the intensification of the conflict. The first is the halving of the number of legislative seats, and the other is the system of presidential authority and direct presidential elections. The former means that the nomination process has become extremely fierce, while the latter strengthens the vicious party system and the polarized opposition that comes with it.
The reduction of legislative seats from 225 to 113 has already assured that at least half of the current legislators will lose their jobs. It has also guaranteed an extremely fierce nomination process. Tough competition is not necessarily a bad thing. The issue is what the candidates are competing on.
This recent primary was clearly not a contest between the different candidates' ability to govern -- namely, who can achieve the party's vision of the future. Rather, it was a contest of their fighting spirit -- who has more hate and vicious battle tactics.
Why have hate and strife become the parties' standard for choosing candidates? This is the eve of the democratic war, and Taiwan's two social forces have consolidated their power in preparation for the ultimate battle.
Party competition has come to be seen as a battle between us and them. Moderates are viewed by parties as weak in the face of the enemy and their loyalty is questioned. This is why the DPP legislative primary resulted in the rise of the warriors.
Taiwan's democratic war has its origins in the historical conflict between the two local and foreign societies, but it is also continuously fed by the viscious two-party system. The presidential authority and direct presidential elections have solidified a system in which each party works to hinder the other, while not allowing room for choice within the party itself. The injuries that result from a system in which presidential elections pit half of the population against the other hardly need explaining.
The people who ardently support the presidential system and who devote themselves to presidential campaigns can broadly be classified as those who support the democratic war. They believe that the opposing camp should be wiped out and that their own camp, by winning the presidential election, can bring about the other side's complete destruction.
Faced with the escalating democratic war and the loss of some of the DPP's political talent in the legislative primary, there are two possible constitutional solutions. The first is to immediately amend the Constitution to increase the number of seats divided proportionally between the political parties. The second is to promote a new political force for Taiwan.
For some time now there have been calls to push for an eighth round of constitutional amendment to implement a Cabinet system. This arrangement could alleviate the harmful opposition between the two parties, accompany a reasonable increase in the number of legislative seats and give moderate forces more room to breathe. In fact, the legislature has already had proposals for two different versions of a Cabinet system.
However, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) unfortunately ordered the KMT caucus whip to kill a joint resolution by party legislators in support of the popularly proposed amendment. Now that he has received all but the DPP's presidential nomination, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) should immediately push for an amendment to heal the inner-party divisions and loss of talented politicians from the "war within the war" -- the DPP primary.
Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) earlier asked that all parties be prudent and earnest while working to achieve the legislative majority needed for passage of the seventh amendment. Now with many legislators being eliminated as the number of legislative seats is halved, Lin should immediately call for another amendment.
Perhaps we could adopt the "Five Yesses and Five Noes" plan proposed by the Civic Alliance for Parliamentarianism and increase the ratio of seats allotted to political parties' legislators-at-large to equal the 79 single-district seats, which includes aboriginal representatives.
When a new constitution is implemented -- sometime during the next president's term at the earliest -- the seventh Legislative Yuan could also include valuable former DPP legislators who had been knocked out in the primary process, such as Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄), Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) and Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉).
Regardless of whether or not the amendment succeeds, Taiwan needs a new political force. In this country a moderate political party has always been lacking. Although the moderates in the DPP primary are generally well liked, they were unable to navigate the party's nomination system. This demonstrates that moderate attitudes are unable to survive within the DPP.
But fractured public opinion could still be hoping for social unity, and be weary of the moderate and rational localization forces in the democratic war. It is regrettable that the DPP, as it seeks to lead Taiwan, has abandoned representing this moderate force.
Without it being represented in politics, Taiwan will continue to sink further into the polarization of its democratic war.
To stop the slaughter, we need peace-keeping troops for "humanitarian intervention," otherwise the battle will rage on. If a new political party is formed to join the year-end legislative elections, then the talented DPP legislators who fell in the primary would still have a chance to be elected as legislators-at-large. Most importantly, Taiwan cannot continue to sink into opposition between two societies. The third society must rise, and it must have a political force.
Jou Yi-cheng is a member of Taiwan’s emerging third society..