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May 27, 2017

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Government leaders must be honest when communicating

Imagine if only five voters go to the polls to elect Taiwan's president in a four-ticket race. One of the presidential tickets gets two votes, and one each for the rest. The candidate who receives two votes becomes president.

That seems bizarre. But that's the design of our presidential election: victory by majority or plurality votes, regardless of voter turnout.

You might think that it would never happen although in theory that is possible. And you might think it absurd for anyone to invoke such an extreme theoretical scenario to argue against the design of the country's presidential election.

But Premier Jiang Yi-huah this week did resort to similar reasoning when dismissing the opposition camp's proposal for a referendum law to decide the fate of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project.

He notes that the anti-nuke camp's proposal does not set a voter turnout threshold for a referendum that lets the majority votes win. It means, he reasons, the nuclear power plant project would have to be abandoned if only three people went to the polls, and two of them voted against it.

The premier claims that such an important matter of the nation cannot be determined by such a flawed design.

But isn't the presidential election also an important matter? So if you buy the premier's argument, it necessarily follows that you have to reject the design of the presidential election.

We're not going further into discussions on the institution of democracy; the scenarios cited above are actually meant to illustrate the way our government leaders manage this country.

Without exploring the pros and cons in detail and without holding any discussions with the proponents, the premier rejected the referendum proposal right away by means of absurd reasoning.

It is the same attitude that the government is assuming in the face of the various versions of an oversight law proposed for monitoring cross-strait negotiations. Jiang has already dismissed all versions other than the Cabinet-proposed one as infeasible, despite the fact that no substantial discussions have taken place yet.

Why are the government leaders so sure about their policies? If they really think their policies so impeccable, are they sincere when saying they are open to different opinions?

Following the stormy Sunflower Movement, government leaders say they have realized that they need to step up communication with the young people and understand them more. They plan to arrange forums around the nation to talk to the country's youth.

We don't see why such forums are necessary if there is no real communication. Haven't the young people spoken up during their occupation of the Legislature? Haven't the young people sent out strong messages about their concerns and worries? Havs the government really listened to them?

If these voices haven't been heard by the government, neither will they be during the forums, which are just gestures trying to convince the young people that the government does care about them and what it has been doing will give them a bright future — although it is not really listening to them.

The government has been bent on pursuing its agenda without addressing the concerns of young people. It is a top-down approach: the government leaders know what's best for the nation, but the people don't, so the people had better listen.

President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday came out of a symposium at Academia Sinica wearing a bright smile and waving to a crowd of protesters as if they were big fans of his.

It might have been his way to show his dignity and grace in the face of adversity. But it might also have been a tell-tale sign of how he treats dissent: he shuts his ears, pretends the "cacophony" doesn't exist, and continues doing what he thinks is right.

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