What is Tsai Ing-wen’s “Grand Coalition” About?

In her speech in her home county Pingtung last Saturday, DPP chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)

reiterated that her administration would do its best to advance consociational democracy and a grand coalition government — which would mean that “the premier would not necessarily be a DPP member” — by launching party-to-party talks.

Tsai had first mentioned the idea of either a conociational democracy or a coalition government last Friday, in the third and last televised debates between president Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai Ing-wen, and James Soong.

Tsai told the rally in Pingtung that the DPP would form a grand coalition (大联合政府), and choose the best people to lead Taiwan, regardless of their party affiliations.

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) refers to the concept as a consultative (or negotiated) and democratic grand coalition (走向一个协商、民主,走向一个「大联合政府」).

I’m not sure if that exactly spells a consociational democracy, but that’s the translation chosen by the Taipei Times from either the terms RTI quoted, too, or from any other Tsai quote elsewhere. A paper written for Soochow University in 2009/2010, about Germany’s grand coalition of 2005 – 2009, suggests that 協商民主 – in one word, rather than a comma in between, would stand for kooperative Verhandlungsdemokratie in German,  合作協商民主 in Chinese, or cooperatively negotiated democracy (my personal translation of it). The paper includes the name of a certain Lijphart, and a publication of his in 1999 – apparently referring to Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy.

I’m not going to make myself familiar with the concept now. I’m not particularly thrilled about the concept because it may well be that it will only matter beyond election day under very specific circumstances and conditions anyway – as A-Gu suspected in his blog post on Saturday. But if the different patterns of democracy interest you, Frozen Garlic‘s post of today may provide a short introduction to the topic. He also discusses the topic’s relevance, or its non-relevance, for Taiwan. The only reason as to why I seem to perceive links between the Soochow University paper and Frozen Garlic’s post is that the paper resembles Tsai’s words as quoted by RTI, that Frozen Garlic discusses Tsai’s remarks, and that Garlic,mentions Lijphart in this context.

Personally, I can see Tsai’s point for some cross-party consensus-building when it comes to Taiwan’s basic identity. It isn’t helpful when alternating Taiwanese political parties in government are available for negotiations with China with alternating sets of fundamentals. But if a Taiwan Consensus could be successfully built between the two main political parties – the DPP and the KMT -, that would be a great achievement already – and a sufficient achievement at that.

If the two parties can’t agree to a common negotiation position vis-a-vis China, a “grand coalition”, overarching basically every Taiwanese political issue, would only leave to a governing period void of any major political decisions.

I’m inclined to wait for the election results, and to watch if and how Tsai’s ideas will or won’t evolve further – depending on who will win the presidency, and on what the Legislative Yuan will look like.



» Consociationalism, Wikipedia, accessed 20120110


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