With President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) winning the election by a narrow margin of less than 30,000 votes, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) wants the election result to be annulled. Pan-blue supporters took to the streets and the feverish atmosphere surrounding the election did not end with the announcement of the result. Society is still clouded with worries and uncertainty.
However, worrying will not solve the problem. I think the priority for the Taiwanese people is to elevate their thinking to the point that they can transcend emotions, ideology, partisanship and even their Taiwanese identity. They can then consider what the country lacks and what it should strive for.
First, Taiwanese society lacks trust in the system, which is most worrisome following the calls for a recount of the ballots. The question of who is right about the recount is secondary. We need to investigate a more fundamental issue — that is, our society’s mistrust of the system.
Had the winner of the election been the pan-blue alliance, the pan-greens would not necessarily have behaved more calmly than the pan-blue camp has. It is because both sides’ trust in the system is a selective pseudo-trust — they trust the system only when the result is to their advantage.
Mistrust in the system is not only the fault of the pan-green or pan-blue camp. Maybe the real problem is that people cannot trust the system itself.
Yet on the other hand, neither of the camps can escape the blame. Over the past decade, both camps have been numbing themselves with “the legitimacy of their goals.” In order to achieve their professed ideals, both camps have found excuses to justify their illegitimate means. Take the presidential election, for example. The pan-blue camp was not unreasonable when it claimed the election was unfair.
During the election campaign, the pan-green camp had abused administrative resources in order to achieve an electoral win. The decision to hold the presidential election and the referendum on the same day also led to suspicion in the pan-blue camp that the government was attempting to rig the vote. Yet four years ago didn’t the pan-blue camp, then in power, also abuse its administrative position to bully the opposition?
If both sides ravage the system when they are in a position to influence it, how can we expect the already-strained mechanism to be effective in settling disputes when a crisis arises?
Second, tolerance among people is gradually decreasing.
The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran once said, “If duty destroys peace among nations, and patriotism disturbs the tranquility of man’s life, then let us say, `Peace be with duty and patriotism.'” Over the past few years, the beautiful expression “love Taiwan” has become the source of domestic confrontation thanks to the political parties.
No matter where we were born or where we came from 50 years ago, hasn’t half a century of intermarriages, integration and a common life turned us all into one big family? Even if we are not family, we are at least classmates and friends. What differences are huge enough to tear us apart?
Unnecessary confrontation among people only serves to glorify politicians. Whoever wins the election, politicians of both camps are the biggest winners. The battle between the two camps creates only one loser — the entire public, paying with a loss of emotional closeness and unfocused government.
There is no need to censure politicians. Where there is profit to be had, there are crowds — such is human nature. Politicians are no exception. If fierce confrontation is advantageous to politicians, that is what they will aim for. As long as they see themselves climbing the ladder of power, they do not care about what is said about them.
It is exactly because people have lost their tolerance that they cannot stand the thought of their party losing the election. That is why we witnessed endless conflict, various illegitimate methods and doubts about vote-rigging during the election and disagreement over the result after the election. What will happen next?
Whether the judicial authorities will carry out the recount is still unknown, but will the pan-blues find the result acceptable if the judicial authorities recount the ballots and confirm the previous result? Or if the result of the recount favors the pan-blue camp, will the pan-green camp be able to stand losing the election?
Browsing through materials on the ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland lately and comparing it to Taiwan’s elections, more emotionally charged with each election, I really hope that people of Taiwan can calm down to consider what they really want and what they think is most important.
No matter what happens next, I hope that we will remember that we are brothers and sisters raised on the same piece of land. Nothing can tear our feelings apart. We must maintain a minimum tolerance that will allow us to tolerate any possible outcome. Now the controversy has entered the legal process. We may mistrust the administrative system, as it was once manipulated by the political parties, but the judiciary is a relatively clean area. Let’s maintain our remaining trust in the system and patiently await the judicial decision.
Last, I’d like to put forward a call to the judicial authorities. Compared to the administrative system, which has suffered severe intervention by political parties, the judicial authorities are a relatively trustworthy mediator, as Taiwan’s judicial reforms over the past few years have resulted in some praiseworthy achievements.
This time, faced with lawsuits involving an event as important as a presidential election, the judicial system cannot brush aside doubts or concerns by simply saying that the integrity of the judicial process cannot be questioned. Even if it means mobilizing enormous judicial resources, the judicial authorities should handle the case in an open, fair and transparent manner in the shortest time possible in order to manifest its public credibility. The staff taking over the trials should also be carefully selected in order to avoid controversy resulting from their political stances.
The question of whether this controversy will be peacefully resolved depends on the last line of defense — public calm and judicial prudence.
陳長文 C. V. Chen is a senior partner at the law firm Lee and Li.
Translated by Jennie Shih
中文版〈兩道無可再退的防線〉 ,中國時報, 2004/03/22https://cvchen.com/2004/03/22/%e5%85%a9%e9%81%93%e7%84%a1%e5%8f%af%e5%86%8d%e9%80%80%e7%9a%84%e9%98%b2%e7%b7%9a/
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