Taiwan democracy faces long-term test

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-1 0:28:02

The 2014 Taiwan local elections, also known as the "nine-in-one" elections, ended with the substantial defeat of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party. In this election, the party only won six out of 22 municipalities and counties, while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held 13. Besides, the KMT has only kept New Taipei City, one of the smallest among the six special municipalities. The KMT admitting its failure has greatly raised morale in the DPP.

The election result has prompted heated discussions about what impacts it will make on the 2016 election for the future Taiwan leader and Taiwan's democracy. The odds seem not in the KMT's favor, but a tough war is still inevitable. The elections concluded quite peacefully, and it could be seen as progress for Taiwanese society in terms of the interchange of governing parties.

The KMT's failure resulted from its incompetence in managing Taiwan's economy and society. But it is axiomatic that the KMT's defeat doesn't mean the triumph of Taiwan independence forces, and it seems that the DPP is well aware of that. So far, the DPP has been toeing the line without challenging cross-Straits relations.

The DPP is gaining the upper hand, but it cannot do whatever it wants. If its cross-Straits policy reminds people of what the former leader Chen Shui-bian propagated, it will be questionable how long its good fortune can last. If the DPP wants to regain the helm, it must keep in mind that the progress in cross-Straits relations can never be reversed.

Taiwan is a much smaller society compared with the Chinese mainland, but how Western democracy develops on the island could serve as a reference to the endeavors of Chinese society in pursuit of democracy. Yesterday saw a debate in the Chinese mainland's public discourse, in which many liberals took the advantage to publicize their values and said they believe Taiwan is a role model for the mainland.

Taiwan still faces a long-running test, especially after its crown of being one of the four "Asian tigers" has faded. The rise of the mainland has dramatically changed the landscape of the Asia-Pacific region, and Taiwan, so far, has been quite clumsy in the face of these changes. Taiwan's mechanism of alternating governing parties has not yet pointed to a bright future for its society. On the contrary, it is abused by political parties to evade their responsibilities.

It is naïve to see Western democracy as the guarantee of social progress. In Asia, democracy functions well in countries like Japan, but malfunctions in the Philippines and many other countries. In fact, the connection between Western democracy and social progress has yet to be proved. In this sense, Taiwan's future is highly uncertain.

Western-style elections have split Taiwan society, but it is unknown if they can reunite it. Not only Taiwan, but the mainland is also paying heed.

The mainland should view Taiwan's elections with inner peace. We must understand that the more developed the mainland becomes, the more unlikely it is that the island will leave.

Posted in: Editorial

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