Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A well-written opionion piece in today's Taipei Times:

Demagogue shows his face

Perhaps Taiwan is not ready for democracy -- half of Taiwan anyway. An election under the Constitution is what everyone started out with. In the end, dissatisfied with the result, a childish and petulant Lien Chan led his supporters on a night of troublemaking. I witnessed a frenzied and somewhat scary and disturbing exhibition of exactly what you never want to see in a democracy -- one side calling for essentially a mob to gather strength and inciting the people to violent emotions. In a mature democracy, the candidates know what is at stake in carrying out the constitutional mandated election procedures (even in a contested election), and they call for calm, not protests at the local DPP office.

What the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did was to give a good idea of just what a KMT-led government would be capable of. Instead of contesting the election under the law (which he will do in any event), Lien vented his bad feelings in losing the election by chancing civil war or anarchy. He showed us the KMT way is the way of the mob: against reason, against law and against the Constitution.

Of course in a democracy there will be close elections. Of course there will be contested elections, and there will be recounts. Of course one side will be disappointed and the other jubilant. It is the way of a democracy. Of course the KMT is disappointed. If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost, its supporters would have been disappointed, too. But the good thing about democracy is the peaceful transition of government. Nothing in a democracy could have been accomplished by taking a 10,000-strong crowd, led by the pouting Lien, to the Presidential Office. The recount will not be advanced by a mob. It should not be performed under the pressure or intimidation of a mob. The election is a matter of voting and tabulating. There are emotions, but of course, a sensible party leader will keep his supporters in line, and make sure they do not disturb the Constitution, the law and the democracy. That is the point, isn't it?

Watching the frightening display tonight, which went into the wee hours, with a flowing mob confronting and attacking police, throwing bottles and driving trucks into barricades, it was clear the KMT supporters had been whipped into a frenzy that convinced them they would either succeed to power legally, or seize it by the mob if they didn't like the result. The KMT showed it would be perfectly satisfied with mob rule. I saw tonight that the KMT doesn't really like democracy -- it craves only power.

At the DPP celebration after the election, the 10,000 supporters gathered there were told it was a chance to show the world Taiwan's best face, its democracy in full order, its Constitution working. People were told to behave, and to show the world how a mature democratic people can be. At the KMT rally, Lien refused to concede the election and exhorted his followers in a teary, petulant speech to march to the Presidential Office and demand a recount.

Under the Constitution, all he has to do is ask. It's part of the election process and no mob scenes are required.

Watching Lien tonight sulking and pouting on the podium, it made me realize for the first time how close we have come to a violent overthrow of government. It appeared to me that Lien and many in the KMT believe they are letting the DPP rule at the KMT's pleasure (as if the DPP leased Taiwan from the KMT for four years), and if the KMT doesn't like what happens, they will step in and change it.

They might try the election first, but if that doesn't work....

It would not be a surprise to me to watch Lien and his ilk plan and carry out such a move. It is people such as this that are the tyrants and dictators in many oppressed countries throughout the world. In fact, the more you look at it, the more the KMT looks like the Chinese Communist Party.

How sad for Taiwan. One can only hope the recount doesn't spark a further embarrassing spectacle courtesy of the KMT if the result isn't what they want. It seems the KMT is simply not willing to be denied power for another four years.

Lee Long Hwa
United States

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