Taiwan's politics further away from ideals of social justice


Decadence of an ideal

Since the nationwide lift of Martial Laws in 1987, the voices for reform that came from "outside the party" had surged in coalition for the establishment of the "Democratic Progressive Party." For quite some time, the DPP was not only a party demanding political democracy, it had also allied itself with numerous social movements, from whose support the party gradually thrived.

In the following years, the demand for openness and freedom of opinion was closely connected with the demand for Taiwan independence. In the last few years when KMT's Li Teng-Hui was president, he raised the issue of de jure independence in order to compete with the DPP. Since then, the DPP has alienated its ideals for democracy and social justice in social movements; instead, it opted for a radically nationalist as well as populist approach.

Though the DPP became the ruling party in 2000, it has failed to deal effectively with challenges from the opposition party and from running the country, of which the corruption problems being the most serious, in the mean time manipulating populist ideology in order to reassure its legitimacy. The KMT in turn used its conservatism and discontent from the people to fight the DPP. The struggle in the past 8 years has deprived political debates of its public nature, leaving only ideology and opposition.

The legislative reform

The legislative reform was facilitated by the renowned leader for democratic movement Lin Yi-hsiung. Lin argued for an amendment for Constitution that would reduce the size of the Legislative Yuan by half and change the election districts to "single-member districts". The act was eventually approved by the Legislative Yuan, and next year by the National Assembly.

The number of legislator went from 225 to 113. 73 of the 113 members were chosen in single-member districts by the plurality voting system. 34 seats under the Additional member system were elected in one national district by party-list proportional representation. Only political parties whose votes exceed a five percent threshold were eligible for the allocation.

Voices from the minorities

The legislative election in 2008 was the debut for such system. Although the single-member district system left little room for minor parties, the "additional member system" was considered an opportunity for voices apart from the DPP-KMT face-off, many of whom hoped for seats in the parliament.

The minor parties can be roughly grouped in two: forces derived from DPP or KMT, and forces that appeal for total political reform and social justice, trying to pick up the ideals forsaken by the then DPP.

From the dozen minor parties, the "Third Society Party" and "Green Party" are known for their appeals for reforms, but they are also fundamentally different: the "Third Society Party" has opted for a rather elitist approach and positioned itself as "professional political brokers;" while "Green Party" has a mainly environmental appeal. Before the election, the Green Party grouped with the "Raging Citizens Act Now!" (formed in support for labors, sex workers and migrant workers) and appealed for the minorities.

The knockdown

However, the 2008 election proved a defeat for all the minor parties—the KMT won 81 seats, the DPP 27 seats, only 5 were won by the no-party alliance and the People First Party (derived from KMT.) Not a single minor party passed the 5% threshold as of additional votes. All this seems to mark the dawning of a two-party system.

Green Party's Pan Hansheng said the single-member district system made it difficult for minor parties to get votes, let along crossing the 5% threshold; as a result, even though people recognize with Green Party's approach, they wouldn't vote for GP, because they know the votes will be "wasted."

Will the minorities learn the lesson and prepare for another fight? Or will they simply retreat from the frontline? How the political scene evolves will have to depend on rational debates and the awakening of public awareness, which might take some time to grow.