Recently, Taiwan, or the Republic of China, concluded its legislative election.
Though many observers expected the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to not do so well in this election, the results still come as a shock, even to the winning Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party. The DPP lost, and lost badly.
Out of the 113 seats, Kuomintang won 81, and the “pan-Blue Camp”, meaning Kuomintang and its allied, won 87 seats, against the “pan-green camp” DPP’s 27 seats. Even South Taiwan including Kaoshiong, which used to be the strongholds of DPP, changed colour. MOst of the elected representatives are from the Blue camp.
Going back to history, following the defeat by the Communists in Mainland China in 1949, Kuomintang, under Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek, fled to Taiwan, which was reverted to Chinese rule from Japan following the second World War.
Using the pretext of “Fan Gong Da Lu” (recover the Mainland) and the war status with the Communists (under the name of the “Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion”), Chiang imposed Martial law and ruled with an ironclad hand.
With totalitarian rule, however, Chiang and his son, Ching Kuo, who succeeded him in 1978, were able to push through a vital Land Reform and gave land for the peasants and the farmers. The successful Land reform formed the basis of an economic takeoff – a miracle indeed- in the eighties and nineties, and Taiwan was one of the 4 little Asian tigers then. It is now considered to be a fully industrialised nation.
When the Soviet Trained Chiang Ching Kuo took over as President in 1978 ( he was premier from 1972 to 1978) , he gradually liberalised and democratised the system. In 1987, Chiang lifted Martial rule and an opposition party, DPP came into being, advocating Taiwan’s Independence. When he died in 1988, Lee Teng Hui took over as President, and under the pro-independence Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of localization in which local culture and history was promoted over a pan-China viewpoint. Lee also democratised the system resulting in the first Presidential election in 1996.
Kuomintang’s support was gradually eroded because of abuses of power and corrupt practices. In the early days of its rule till the mid -80s, party and government were indistinguishable. Government servants were required to be party members and party and government finances were almost indistinguishable. Because of these, resentment against the party built up and resulted in the people’s support shifting from Kuomintang to DPP. In 2000, DPP’s Chen Sui Bian defeated the kuomintang candidate and became the President till now.
Chen never learned from the mistakes of the Nationalists. Chen ‘s rule is similarly marked by allegations of corrupt practices. Worse, there were financial scandals involving the family and allegations of abuse of power etc. Chen is also perceived to be an inert president. Chen ‘s stress on politicking over actual governing also causes the economy to slow down and a common complain is that the government has no direction.. There are also allegations of many politicians and high officials linking up with Triads, one of the most well known is the “Zu Lian Ban”.
With all these, resentment against DPP built up . Street demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people took place, asking Chen to resign. Chen resisted all calls asking him to quit, but then DPP’s support began to shrink and a defeat was expected, though the extent of defeat shocked even the most optimistic in the Kuomintang’s camp.
One thing we Malaysian have to admire the Taiwanese is that their press is much freer, unlike in our country where only Malaysiakini can be said to be fairly free. Street demonstrations are also allowed to proceed as a mean of people expressing their wish. This shows that despite starting their democratisation rather late, Taiwan is now much much ahead of us in democratic practices.
DPP was trashed this time mainy because of these reasons:
1. corruption and scandals involving the presidential family
2. perceived abuse of power of top leaders
3. slow down in economy with lack of direction of economic policies
4. poor governance and poor government
The story of Taiwan sounds very familiar indeed. Many popular governments becomes unpopular in a matter of years. Therefore, the loss of DPP should be a lesson to all governments and all leaders of governments. There is plenty to learn from this defeat.
One basic fact is that a government must be people orientated in order to win the hearts of the people, and only with that, will the people give the mandate to the government. If a government does not care about the feelings of the people, if the leaders are arrogant and abuse the trust the voters give them, a defeat is inevitable.