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Checks and balances in the government

On Jan. 12 the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffered the most crushing setback since its foundation. It was trounced by the Kuomintang (KMT) in the legislative elections, taking only 27 of the 113 seats contested, compared with the 81 grabbed by the opposition Kuomintang. The landslide victory by the KMT was described by The Washington Post as President Chen Shui-bian's "just reward."

Thanks to its win, the KMT will be able to block most of the policies that the executive branch of the government wants implemented, a fact which has spawned appeals that a DPP member be elected as the president to ensure the existence of checks and balances in the government.

The belief that there should be checks and balances in a government is based on the idea that various branches of a government, especially the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, should have enough power to control each other.

In actual use, however, the term generally refers to the limits that the legislature and the judiciary put on the executive branch to prevent dictatorship. It is seldom used to describe a situation in which a powerful president is needed to control the legislature.

The devastating defeat that the DPP suffered in the legislative polls has resulted from the ruling party's inability to improve life for the people. During the seven years since the DPP came to power, economic growth has lagged and unemployment has increased. The DPP government's pursuit of Taiwan independence has made the island more isolated and led to a rise in tension in the Taiwan Strait.

This sad state of affairs will certainly worsen if the next president is a DPP member. It is time that the reins of the government were put in the hands of a different party.

While it is a plausible argument that electing a DPP candidate as president is necessary to prevent the KMT-dominated legislature from abusing its powers, what the country needs most now is a president who can improve the lot of the people and make the Taiwan Strait more peaceful.

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