Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

According to the Taipei Times , Taiwan's December 11 legislative elections should not be interpreted as a vote on a referendum for independence.

Here are reports from the BBC on the results of Taiwan's most recent legislative elections

From BBC.com on December 11, 2004:
Opposition wins Taiwan elections

Taiwan's opposition alliance has defeated President Chen Shui-bian's DPP party in parliamentary elections.
The opposition parties took 114 of the parliament's 225 seats.

The vote, which could shape the way the island handles relations with China, was the first since Mr Chen narrowly won the presidency in March.

The BBC's Taiwan correspondent, Chris Hogg, says the electorate has opted for a parliament that will act as a brake on Mr Chen's more controversial plans.

He says that while Mr Chen remains in charge because of the country's presidential system, he may find it difficult to get backing for proposals including constitutional changes and an $18bn arms deal with the US.

Both projects have been criticised by the Beijing government, which regards Taiwan as a renegade Chinese province and has accused Mr Chen of wanting to declare independence.

China has threatened to use force if the island ever declared a formal split.

'Don't want war'

President Chen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has never won a majority in the parliament, the Legislative Yuan.

The DPP and its ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, together won 101 seats.

The remaining 10 seats went to independent candidates and other groups, the Central Election Commission said.

Mr Chen accepted responsibility for his alliance's defeat.

"We fully accept the result," he added.

The leader of the opposition Nationalists or Kuomintang (KMT) said the victory meant that people were eager for peace.

"We don't want war. We don't want our government to take the road of provocation and create tension," Lien Chan said.

'Round two'

Some people in Taiwan are keen to portray the election as round two of the presidential poll, and the campaign was dominated by the former presidential candidates, our correspondent says.

The opposition alliance still does not accept the result of the presidential vote.

President Chen's supporters believed that a convincing performance in the election would show China and his critics at home that he does have a mandate to govern.

The stakes were high for opposition leaders, too, our correspondent says.

The nationalists have lost two presidential elections in a row, and for the last three years they have relied on smaller parties for their parliamentary majority.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/12/11 15:55:09 GMT

From BBC.com on December 12, 2004

A bad taste for Taiwan's president

By Chris Hogg
BBC Taiwan correspondent

The pictures on the front of Taiwan's newspapers said it all.

Lien Chan, the leader of the opposition, smiling broadly, surrounded by cheering supporters.

"It's been a long time for us", he said, in a reference to the fact he had lost three elections in a row.
"This is the moment we've been waiting for."

Plastered alongside that picture on most front pages were images of a more sober looking President Chen Shui-bian, flanked on one side by the Vice-President Annette Lu, who looked as if she had swallowed a lemon.

This election has no doubt left a bad taste in the mouth of many of the ruling party's grandees.

They had hoped the president's charisma would carry them to an historic victory, wresting control of the Legislative Yuan from the opposition for the first time ever.

It was not to be.

Instead they found themselves facing three more years of co-habitation, and the political bickering and parliamentary gridlock that seem to accompany it in Taiwan.

President Chen said it was his fault and appealed to the country to come together. He talked of the need for compromise.

But how serious is he?


Some commentators are dubious about how much ground the president is prepared to give to his opponents.

"If you look at his political career, he's a fighter," Dr I-Chung Lai from the Taiwan Think Tank told the BBC.

"He's not going to take this lying down."

"For the last four years his party was in the minority in parliament," Dr Lai points out. "But that did not deter him from pushing forward bills he believed were important. He will come back and fight."

One of the most controversial measures on the president's wish list is his pledge - made in his inauguration speech earlier this year - to renew the island's constitution.

It is controversial because China fears it is a cover for a significant step towards a declaration of independence for Taiwan, despite presidential denials.

The amendment process is likely to get under way as soon as the new legislature takes office next February.

'Checks and balances'

Constitutional changes require the consent of three quarters of the Legislative Yuan - so some kind of deal with the opposition parties was always going to be necessary.

However support for more extreme amendments will now be much harder to secure.

"The opposition's win will serve as a check and balance for President Chen's independence efforts," believes Philip Yang, associate professor at the National Taiwan University.

"There will still be a power struggle between the two camps, but under a system of checks and balance, policies will be more prudent."

That will welcomed by many in the international community, who are concerned about escalating tensions across the Taiwan Straits.

Failing to win a majority in parliament might make it harder to pursue more reckless measures which could anger China.

The president's supporters, though, had hoped that a win might give him more legitimacy - a proper mandate to govern.

The opposition after all is still pursuing two court challenges to the presidential election result.

One suit, which is due to be decided before the end of the year, could conceivably force a partial or even a total re-run of the presidential poll.

Difficult issues

Dr Alexander Huang, professor of strategic studies at Tamkang University fears that without that mandate, the Chinese leadership on the mainland will continue to ignore President Chen.

"What I'm concerned about is that Beijing will feel, OK now we don't have a problem because there is a strong opposition in Taiwan so we don't need to talk to this guy."

China, Dr Huang fears, is likely to continue its strategy of talking to other countries about Taiwan, but refusing to talk to the Taiwanese themselves.

"'We can wait for another three-and-a-half years and see what's going on,' they will say. Beijing has said they can wait. But what will happen in the meantime? That worries me."

Another difficult issue Taiwan faces is the decision whether or not to spend $18bn on an arms deal with the US.

"Yes, some purchases of military equipment are necessary," says Professor Szu-yin Ho, professor of political science at National Chengchi University and a member of the central committee of the KMT, the main opposition party. "But not $18bn."

"That would cause budgetary problems that will have a tremendous impact on our future."

There have already been large protest rallies against the plans.

That is to say nothing of the bitter complaints from China to the US.

Concerns for legacy

So in the end what changed as a result of this parliamentary election?

On the face of it, nothing much. The opposition held a narrow majority in parliament before the poll. They still do.

But President Chen nonetheless managed to push through measures in the old parliament, thanks mainly to the opposition alliance's tendency to bicker and disagree among themselves.

'Divide and rule' might be one strategy under consideration in the presidential palace.

Compromise is another, of course.

But President Chen, some analysts say, is most concerned now in his second and final term with securing his place in the history of this island.

As a result real compromise is unlikely to be high up his agenda.

The question is whether the slap in the face from the voters will persuade him to abandon such lofty ideals in favour of more pragmatic government, or spur him on more to find new and more controversial ways to ensure he makes his mark.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/12/12 09:03:23 GMT



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