Foreign observers needed for election

I had a letter about the need for election observers published in the Taipei Times today. While I hope the forthcoming election will be trouble free, I note in the letter that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters have engaged in violent protests following election losses in 2000 and 2004. The risk of violent protests destabilising the political system and affecting the transfer of power should not be ignored.

It is disappointing to see that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not provided funding to European academics to observe next month’s presidential and legislative elections (“European election observers denied funding by MOFA,” Dec. 2, page 1).

The elections should be an opportunity to showcase Taiwan’s democratic development to the rest of the world.

DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has a good chance of winning the election. If Tsai is victorious, it will mark another transition of power and solidify Taiwan’s transition to democracy that began with the lifting of martial law in 1987.

However, one hopes the transition will be smooth and trouble-free. A look at Taiwan’s recent history suggests the possibility of trouble.

KMT supporters were engaged in violent protests following the election victories of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as president in 2000 and 2004. KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) even served time in jail for his role in leading a riot in Kaohsiung after the 2004 election.

The four-month transition period between next year’s presidential election and the swearing-in of the president is a window during which more trouble could potentially occur.

It is pleasing to the see the formation of an international committee, led by eminent figures that include former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former presidential adviser Peng Ming-min (彭明敏), to observe the election (“US Congress to watch elections ‘closely,’” Dec. 3, page 1).

I hope that their efforts to ensure that the election is free and fair will also be supported by NGOs such as the Carter Center and Asian Network for Free Elections.

It is also important that as many foreign academics and media personnel as possible are in Taiwan at the time of the election to closely monitor the situation.

The presence of foreign observers during the election will help ensure that the democratic gains made in Taiwan during the past two decades are not put at risk.