Taiwan vote marks watershed for democracy: The island's first full parliamentary elections being held today are dominated by electoral corruption and relations with China, writes Teresa Poole
Saturday 19 December 1992
But at speeches given at universities since his return, students have crowded out assembly halls. On home ground, the 69-year-old former National Taiwan University professor, for whom an arrest warrant was still out until last year, is being lauded as an intellectual mentor for the opposition movement. He has also become something of an ethical steward for the high-spending parliamentary elections being held today, in which 406 candidates are contesting 161 seats.
The elections offer an imperfect watershed in Taiwan's transition from the authoritarian strong- man politics of the Chiang Kai- shek era to a more democratic system. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party will win comfortably, because the main opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is fielding only a limited number of candidates. But it will be the first time for more than four decades that all the seats are up for election, and the first time ever that the entire parliament is being chosen within Taiwan.
The last full election for the parliament - the Legislative Yuan - was in 1948, when Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist KMT were still on the mainland; but it was only a year ago that the aged survivors of that election were finally forced to retire. Today's vote, albeit blighted by vote- buying and the biases of a former one-party system, will be a decisive step in changing the Legislative Yuan from a rubber-stamping body populated by snoozing geriatrics to a functioning parliament with a meaningful opposition. According to David Shambaugh, editor of the China Quarterly: 'The simple phenomenon that the elections are taking place is very important.'
Taiwan's democratisation has been a comparatively brisk and bloodless transformation. It was back in 1964, 15 years after the KMT had lost to the Communists and retreated to Taiwan, that Mr Peng was arrested and imprisoned for preparing a manifesto calling on President Chiang to admit the absurdity of a 'One China' policy and to concentrate instead on building up Taiwan. Six years later, after prison and house arrest, Mr Peng escaped via Sweden to the United States. But it was not until July 1987 that Chiang's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, decided to lift martial law. And it was only in May this year that President Lee Teng-hui, the first Taiwan-born president, who took over in 1988, abolished the sedition law which made it illegal even to discuss Taiwan independence.
This month's election campaign has been dominated by two issues: the increasingly complicated argument about Taiwan's future relationship with the mainland, and electoral corruption. In rural areas free banquets, concerts and even a chess tournament have been on offer - as well as hard cash.
Mr Peng, who is backing the DPP as the only viable opposition party, says: 'I am disappointed. The corruption is an open secret. This type of corruption will destroy the democratic process of the elections.' The state-run television stations and pro-KMT newspapers are also accused of ignoring or misrepresenting the opposition.
Rival policies towards the mainland are the central political issue. Taiwan's de facto independence and its growing business ties with China are becoming more relevant than old-style KMT claims to sovereignty over the whole of the mainland. In five years there have been more than 4 million visitors from Taiwan to China; and Taiwanese investment in China, usually via Hong Kong companies, is estimated at anything up to pounds 2.55bn.
The DPP is running with a 'One China, one Taiwan' banner, a softer version of its strident (and technically illegal) independence platform in the National Assembly elections a year ago, which appeared to put off voters. Mr Peng says: 'The big issue is whether we should concentrate on building up a democratic Taiwan.'
The KMT is split between a progressive wing of mostly Taiwan-born politicians who privately seem little removed from the DPP on the independence issue and the old-guard mainlanders who stick to the One China ethic, which for the time being is really about prolonging the status quo. Professor Chu Yun-han, at the National Taiwan University, says: 'This is a very emotional issue. The (former) mainlanders support the principle of One China but recognise that it is foolish to talk of reunification at this point. The Taiwanese KMT do not support it but also recognise that now is not the time to jeopardise the relationship with China.'
In Peking, Jiang Zemin, the Communist Party's General Secretary, said China would not hesitate to use force if Taiwan declared independence. 'We've heard it all before,' says the DPP. 'It is an insult,' says Mr Peng.
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Details emerge of two young Iranians using stolen passports in search for a better life
Three-quarters of Britons are saying it wrong - the top ten most common mispronunciations
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete's friend asked him if 'he was f***ing mad' after shooting through sunroof
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 1 Watch: The student election Macklemore parody that isn't completely awful - and all the others that are
- 2 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 4 Joanna Lumley’s garden bridge over the Thames gets £30m seal of approval from Government
- 5 Ian Wright breaks down in ITV documentary charting his rise to England and Arsenal striker
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...