Lecture Topic: Democratization in Taiwan-Concepts and Practices
Class taken by Dr. Yeh-chung Lu
Speaking in the class of Asian Politics, History, Society and Culture on July 17, 2019, Dr. Yeh-chung Lu delivers lecture about democratization in Taiwan. Dr. Lu defines democracy as “a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting.” The country which holds elections to select national leaders can be categorized as a democratic country. However, to maintain prospect of democratization depends on the ‘rule of law’. Unlike ‘rule by law’ which refers to written law, ‘rule of law’ means political behaviors based on democracy principles under the existing constitution. In recent years, problems have arisen when political leaders in many democracies prefer to behave based on public support than that on democracy values. For example, the United States President Donald Trump’s attacks on minority groups reflect the violation over the protection of minority rights. According to Dr. Lu, many scholars have begun to worry about democracy after Trump took office in the early 2017. He then asks the students to share their opinion on this case by referring to their own countries.
Most students agree that national elections play a vital role in democratization process. Veronika Grindlerova admits that democracy in Czech Republic depends on presidential election. She believes if the election votes different character of the current president, it will improve democratization process in her country. Similarly, Andi Raihanah Ashar expresses her pessimism about democracy in Indonesia because there is no significant change after the country’s elections last April. However, in the case of Poland, Jakub Wolyniec provides three scenarios of the future of democracy. First, if the ruling party survives by retaining its majority in parliament, it would be worse for democracy. Second, small parties are needed to form government in order to avoid of majority powers of big parties. Third, opposition parties are required to control government.
In response to students’ opinion, Dr. Lu asserts that democracy is not taken for granted, but it needs to fight for. He demonstrates Taiwan’s fight to gain democracy and to consolidate it is not an easy works. Taiwan’s democracy is a quiet revolution with some movements including Dangwai Movement (early 1980s) and 520 Peasant Movement (1988) contributed to lead the country get into transition to democracy. After transition from authoritarian regime to democratic system in the late 1980s, Taiwan successfully held national election in 1991 to vote representatives in national assembly. In early 1990s, then President Lee Teng-hui had played a significant role to promote democracy in Taiwan. In 1996, Taiwan conducted its first direct presidential elections in the country’s history. Party turnover in 2000, 2008, and 2016 have highly contributed to Taiwan’s democratic consolidation. Dr. Lu highlights that China’s factor always plays a major role in Taiwan’s elections. The two biggest parties, DPP and KMT, have a different stance regarding cross-strait relations. In contrast to the DPP which would like to stay away from China, the KMT prefers to move closer to China. Ahead of the 2020 elections, the issue is rising to the top and will be debated by both presidential candidates, Tsai Ing-wen (DPP) and Han Kuo-yu (KMT).