After observing recent legislative and presidential elections in Taiwan, members of the independent International Election Observation Mission have concluded that the elections were largely “free, yet partially unfair” (“Elections ‘free, partly unfair,’ watchdog says,” Jan. 16, page 1), citing several structural problems (eg, vote-buying, misuse of government power, and substantial disparities in party wealth) and extraneous fear factors (ie, undue influence exerted by the US and China under the myth of arguably fictional stability) that posed concerns for and pressures on Taiwan’s democracy, particularly on the freedom and fairness of the choices that Taiwanese voters must take. A case in point is the fear factor that runs against the universal values of a democratic election.
The fear factor might be best characterized by the seemingly abrupt comments made by former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director, now US civilian, Douglas Paal just two days before the elections. In a TV interview, he suggested that Washington would not feel comfortable about Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) victory, and it perceived the “Taiwan consensus” proposed by Tsai as vague and impractical.
Such undue influence suggesting the US government’s favoring of candidates — this is the second time in a row influence was exerted by Paal (he did something similar in the 2008 Taiwan presidential election as well) — was once again taking advantage of the fear psychology and economic dependence of Taiwan on China, and insulting to the autonomy of Taiwanese voters.
The comments were not only arbitrary and oppressive, but they strongly undermined the neutrality of the US government in the Taiwanese elections, and ran counter to the principle of fairness and freedom of democracy that every American holds so near and dear.