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Taiwan's Experience in Transitional Justice:A Comparative Study of Two Ruling Party Alternations
Ruling Party Alternation
Under the international pressure of Third Wave Democracy and domestic calls for democratic reform, Chiang Ching-kuo announced to lift martial law on July 15, 1987 and then the ban on political parties and newspaper publications, officially ending the one-party dictatorship in the previous 50 years and ushering in the transition to a democratic constitutional system. After holding the first direct presidential election in 1996, Taiwan was listed by the US-base Freedom House among the countries that implement "democratic elections" and "democracy and freedom." Thus, the presidential election in 1996 was the most important milestone in Taiwan's democratization and democratic politics. In 2000, when Chen Shui-bian of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election, leading to Taiwan's first ruling party alternation and peaceful transfer of political power, the political rights enjoyed by the Taiwanese were further enhanced, and Taiwan was ranked as the most free country in Asia with an equal score with Japan (average index of 1.5). Then in 2008, Ma Ying-jeou of Kuomintang (KMT) won the presidential election, leading to the second ruling party alternation and peaceful transfer of political power in Taiwan in just eight years. Taiwan has since officially became a country with democratic consolidation, according to the "two-turnover test" proposed by Huntington (Huntington, 1991: 266-267). Taiwan’s successful experience in a peaceful, stable and gradual transition to democratic system and democratic consolidation has become one of the best examples cited for theories and models of the Third Wave Democracy. However, many problems that were deliberately suppressed in the process of democratic transition have gradually emerged, especially those human rights abuse and unjust cases during the era of authoritarian rulers. It is thus important for the government to implement transitional justice so as to clarify the truth, rebuild mutual trust for the societies, and rectify unjust acts in the past. Transitional justice is mainly concerned with three pending issues, namely reconstruction of the truth, accountability and correcting improper policies. Although Taiwan's democratization and standard of living have reached the levels of advanced democratic countries, its progress and effectiveness of transitional justice has lagged far behind many other emerging democracies. It is regrettable and puzzling. In my personal opinion, it is because Lee Teng-hui was an executor of the authoritarian regime, he had no incentive to review and explore the mistakes and unjust oppression committed by KMT. Thus, Lee had thus tried to refrain himself as much as possible from implementing the transitional justice programs during his administration and thus Taiwan lost a golden opportunity for transitional justice. During the 8-year administration of Chen Shui-bian, he manipulated the transitional justice process for DPP’s political and electoral advantages, thus leading to vicious power struggle between the pan-blue and pan-green camps. Then, Ma Ying-jeou won back the political power for KMT, but his implementation of transitional justice programs was also very slow and has not defused the discontent and grievances of victimized families. Therefore, the author makes a study on the two ruling party alternations in Taiwan, namely (1) Chen Shui-bian and DPP in power from 2000 to 2008, and (2) Ma Ying-jeou and KMT administration from 2008 to 2016. The author first makes an inventory of the transitional justice programs and mechanisms that Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou have implemented, their progresses, their challenges, and the political effects. Finally, the author makes a comparison on the two rounds transitional justice carried out by either DPP or KMT, infers a transitional justice mode for Taiwan, and makes an overall review and analysis to provide advice and information for future policy development and promotion.
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