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September 22, 2017

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Direct democracy calls betray pandering to populist rhetoric

The student-led protest, which has been occupying the Legislative Yuan's main chamber for almost three weeks, has made little progress so far in its drive to stop the government-sponsored Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement. Despite the government's recent approval of the "Statute for the Processing and Monitoring of Agreements between the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area" — one of the protesters' four demands — the student leaders have demonstrated with flair that they are just as susceptible to populist nonsense as anyone else. After all, why worry about facts when you know that you can generate a bunch of flag-waving faux patriotism with extremist rhetoric? Here are a few examples:

The students-turned-protesters proposed on Friday the implementation of "direct democracy" to review the draft legislation regarding a Taiwan-China agreement-monitoring mechanism, openly showing their lack of understanding about the functioning of a modern democracy. For sure, some of them might believe that direct democracy could help reduce suspicions about legislation regarding mainland China as well as place national and local issues directly in the hands of the people. Regretfully, this concept highlights the protesters' ongoing fantasy regarding contemporary politics and the future of their political movement that has now entered a dead-end.

Strangely enough, students should know that direct democracy won't really help to close the divide between Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties, whose actions are dictated by a "winner takes all" mentality. In a direct democracy, the welfare and economic development of the whole country would be further sidelined for the needs of political factions that will effectively control the (social) media. Inevitably, rule "of the people" will come short of rule "for the people" because decisions won't represent the opinions of a majority of voters who have other things to do than vote on whatever legislation three times a week.

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