Taiwan Protestors Call for End to Legislative Gridlock

By Laurel Mittenthal, China News Digest, 27 November 2001

[CND, 11/27/01] As Saturday’s parliamentary elections approach in Taiwan, a group of local protesters on Monday urged the island’s ruling party and biggest opposition parties to form a post-election coalition to end recent legislative gridlock and restart the moribund economy, Reuters reported on Monday.

Actors sporting masks of Taiwanese President CHEN Shui-bian and Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist) chairman LIEN Chan walked down a red carpet placed outside the presidential building in Taipei for a reconciliation handshake, escorted by the two KMT candidates who conceived the protest.

The candidates, CHEN Horng-chi and CHEN Hsueh-fen, called on Mr Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the KMT to forget their differences and co-operate politically to end the recession facing Taiwan’s economy and lower the unemployment rate from its current record level. The three Chens are not related.

After the actors’ handshake, the pair of politicians raised their clasped hands and chanted KMT-DPP co-operation to save Taiwan.

The elections will be held on Saturday 1 December, and are expected to result in a significant redistribution of political power, with the former monopoly party the KMT predicted to lose its parliamentary majority. Analysts do not expect that a single party will hold a clear majority in the new legislature.

The election of President Chen in March 2000 ended 55 years of KMT rule. The president has announced that he would be willing to share power with opposition parties in a broad-based post-election coalition government.

President Chen is eager to end an obstructive alliance formed by the KMT with two splinter parties that holds a significant majority in the current legislature and has stymied most of his legislative initiatives.

Rather than accepting Mr Chen’s reconciliation overture, the island’s opposition leaders insist that the party with the most seats in parliament after the elections be called on to form the new cabinet.

KMT leaders are still embittered by their election setback last year, do not trust Mr Chen, and are more comfortable continuing their alliance with the People First Party and New Party.

Analysts depicted yesterday’s protest as a signal that fissures are emerging within the KMT, which in turn suspects that the DPP will try to lure KMT legislators to forsake the party for the DPP after the elections.

To the sound of beating gongs and drums, on Monday a convoy of 400 cars stretching several kilometres drove to the presidential office building in central Taipei and blew their horns to show support for reconciliation between the KMT and the DPP.

As a precaution, riot police armed with clubs and shields stood by and barbed-wire barricades were set up on streets leading to the presidential office, but no violence was reported.

Since the DPP’s founding in 1986, it has been a bitter rival of the KMT. The DPP was originally founded in 1986 in defiance of a ban on new political parties that was later rescinded.

This past Saturday, about 1,500 flag-waving protesters marched through Taipei shouting out their demand that the KMT merge with its splinter parties in order to bolster the likelihood of its recapturing the presidency in 2004.

This week’s elections are the first since the island’s first democratic transfer of power in March of last year, and could potentially determine how close and fast the island’s economy is integrated with that of the mainland.

Taiwanese society is bitterly divided between those who support reunification with China and those who do not.