Magazine article Newsweek International

Cleaning the Straits; Taiwan's Young, Messy Democracy May Not Be Easy on the Eyes, but It's Made Important Progress in Recent Years

Magazine article Newsweek International

Cleaning the Straits; Taiwan's Young, Messy Democracy May Not Be Easy on the Eyes, but It's Made Important Progress in Recent Years

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Adams

South Korea isn't the only democratic success story in Asia these days. The competition isn't just coming from Japan; it's Taiwan, rarely recognized as an independent state, that's making some of the best progress. Since holding its first free presidential elections in 1996, Taiwan has most often been associated with the fistfights that occasionally break out in its fractious legislature. But under the surface, the island has been quietly fortifying its political system. Recent surveys by the research group Asian Barometer rank Taiwan third, after Japan and South Korea, on support for liberal democratic values such as civilian rule and an independent judiciary. And its citizens support free speech more strongly than those of any other surveyed country.

Recent reforms virtually guarantee that the country's politics will grow even more pluralistic. In 2003, citizens were granted the power of referendum. In 2005, they were given final say via plebiscite over constitutional amendments, and the same round of reform will create single-member legislative districts rather than the current multi-member ones. That move is expected to create a more stable two-party system; the first election under the new rules is in December.

Perhaps most remarkable is the way the judiciary has become a check on the other powers. Last fall, President Chen Shui-bian's wife was charged with corruption, as was a former opposition leader. Courts have also convicted Chen's son-in-law and one of his top aides. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.