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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In the news ニュース

Monday’s online edition of the Daily Yomiuri ザ・デイリー読売 has two articles on the outcome of Saturday’s legislative elections in Taiwan. The first, “DPP facing daunting task/Taiwan party must rebuild for March presidential poll after defeat”, begins by stating:

“The landslide victory scored by Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (Guomindang) 中国国民党 in a legislative election Saturday has dealt a stunning blow to President Chen Shui-bian's (Chin Suihen) 陳水扁 ruling Democratic Progress(ive) Party 民主進歩党, which is seeking to win the March 22 presidential election. Chen, who completes his second and final four-year term in May, announced his resignation as DPP chairman to take responsibility for the crushing defeat. The onus is now on DPP presidential candidate Hsieh Chang-ting (Sha Chōtei) 謝長廷, a former premier, to rebuild the party in the run-up to the presidential poll.”

The article also highlights the dangers Taiwan’s electorate has created for itself by concentrating so much power in the hands of a single political party, especially one with a long, anti-democratic history like that of the KMT:

“The Nationalist Party now has more than the 76 seats--two-thirds of the total--required to call a motion to dismiss a president. The party is therefore expected to dominate the legislature for the next four years. Furthermore, if the Kuomintang can persuade just four legislators from other parties to cooperate, it will have more than three-quarters of the seats, a position that will enable it to amend the Constitution.”

Welcome to a brave new world, Taiwan. The article itself is not written very well. For example, it refers to Kaohsiung (Gaosyong) 高雄県 and Yunlin 雲林県 counties as “prefectures”, and includes a paragraph about how Chen may do something to “provoke” China in a desperate attempt to turn the tables in time for the March 22 presidential election.

The other Taiwan-related piece in the Yomiuri is much better. “Taiwan opposition win bears close watching” is the headline of Monday’s editorial. Unlike the first article, this column is more optimistic about the DPP’s chances in the race for president:

“...we doubt this major victory (in the legislative elections) will be reflected in the presidential election. In Taiwan, a pendulum effect has been observed for years as the victorious party switches from election to election...The key to victory in the presidential election for the DPP is how much momentum the party can regain under the leadership of former Premier Hsieh Chang-ting, the party's presidential candidate, with party members and supporters' sense of crisis as leverage.”

The editorial also points out the risks, however, of the KMT having such a large legislative majority:

“...even if the DPP manages to maintain its hold on the presidency with a come-from-behind victory by Hsieh, its handling of the government will be unsure in the face of opposition control of the legislature. The Nationalist Party now has the right to propose a motion to remove the president as it obtained more than two-thirds of the legislative seats. If the party succeeds in winning the support of independents and controlling more than three-fourths of the seats, it would be possible to change the Constitution. If Ma Ying-jeou (Ba Eikyū) 馬英九, the Nationalists' presidential candidate and former party leader, wins the presidential race, the ruling party will totally dominate the administration, bringing back memories of the era when Taiwan was ruled by a Nationalist Party dictatorship.”

The Yomiuri, naturally, looks at all this from a Japanese perspective:

“We wonder what effects the election results will have on the future of Taiwan and the situation in East Asia, where China-Taiwan relations play a vital role. As such developments affect the area's security and economic matters, Japan needs to keep a close eye on the situation as it progresses...At the time of the presidential election, a referendum also will be held on whether the island should join the United Nations 国際連合 as Taiwan, an idea espoused by Chen. China has heightened its readiness against Taiwan as it sees the move as a step toward independence. As the United States and France also oppose the idea, the issue is gaining international attention. Japan declared it may not support the move if it changes the status quo in the relations between China and Taiwan. Given this, Japan should persuade Taiwan not to damage the area's stability.”

It’s interesting how the Yomiuri refers to Hsieh by his Chinese name, and not “Frank”, as most English-language media identify him.

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