Friday, January 15, 2016

Taiwan's election: Change is a good thing

Administrations tend to ossify over time. Peaceful transitions of power are a healthy way to rejuvenate a democracy 

Politics is a bit like sailing through rough seas without proper navigational instruments: there's a general idea as to the destination, but how to get there is very much an exercise of trial and error, triangulation, improvisation and adjustments. 

The benefits of adjustments – their indispensability, in fact – are often underappreciated, as the human tendency is to favor the status-quo and predictability. However, as long-serving governments and authoritarian regimes have demonstrated over centuries, state and party institutions tend to ossify over time. As 'group think' sets in, the government becomes less and less capable of generating new ideas or implementing new practices. Rejuvenation cannot be self-generated, and stasis sets in. 

Luckily for democratic countries like Taiwan, they have the advantage of having institutionalised the cyclical mechanisms by which citizens, as non-participants in the daily routine of governance, can judge that a regime has reached the limits of its utility and that the time has come for a course correction. 

And a course correction is exactly what's in order for Taiwan after nearly eight years of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule, just as it had become necessary after eight years of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rule from 2000-2008. As the 16 January elections approach, it is very clear that President Ma Ying-jeou's KMT has run out of steam and that it is no longer capable of generating the new ideas that will guide Taiwan toward a more prosperous future. 

My article, published today in the Lowy Interpreter, continues here.

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