On March 23, under pressure from nearby military maneuvers by the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan held its first-ever popular presidential election. (See the article by Yun-han Chu on pp. 69–82 above.) President Lee Teng-hui, the architect of Taiwan’s democratic transition, was reelected with 54 percent of the vote. Below are excerpts from his inaugural address, delivered on May 20:
Today, we in Taiwan firmly tell the world, with great pride and self-confidence: We now stand on the apex of democratic reform and will remain there resolutely. We have proved eloquently that the Chinese are capable of practicing democracy. We have effectively expanded the influence of the international democratic camp and made significant contributions to the cause of freedom and democracy.
Therefore, this gathering today does not celebrate the victory of any candidate, or any political party for that matter. It honors a triumph of democracy for [Taiwan’s] 21.3 million people. It salutes the confirmation of freedom and dignity—the most fundamental human values—in the Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu area. . . .
From now on, the people as a whole, rather than any individual or any political party, will be invested with the ruling power of the nation. This is free will in full play, the fullest realization of “popular sovereignty,” the real “compliance with the will of Heaven and response to human wishes,” the getting rid of the old and ringing in the new. All the glory belongs to the people. . . .
We have to broaden and deepen the democratic exercise. Horizontally, we will share our democratic experience with all Chinese and international friends. Vertically, we will proceed to phase 2 constitutional reform, promote clean elections, ensure clean and efficient government, enhance law and order, restructure the political landscape, and strengthen the multiparty political system, so as to guarantee stability and development for democracy. . . . [End Page 182]
On March 29–31, more than a dozen Nigerian prodemocracy groups held simultaneous “summit” meetings in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Oslo, Norway. At the meetings they formed an umbrella organization—the United Democratic Front of Nigeria—to oppose the military regime of General Sani Abacha and to restore civilian democratic government. The ten-point declaration from the communiqué issued at the summit appears below:
We, the prodemocracy organizations listed below, having deliberated in our simultaneous meetings in South Africa and in Europe, hereby resolve to work together under a common platform (United Democratic Front of Nigeria) to effectively harness and facilitate our activities toward the restoration of democracy in Nigeria on the basis of the popular mandate of 12 June 1993.
The immediate task of the Government of National Unity to be so formed is to call a Sovereign National Conference whose main task is to preside over the restoration of full democratization in the country.
Further, we resolve that:
- We reject in its entirety the three-year transition program of the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria.
- Any actions including the creation of states and the conduct of elections under the illegal Abacha regime shall be null and void.
- The only moral, just, and lasting solution to the Nigerian crisis is respect for the mandate of the Nigerian people as expressed in elections prior to and including the 12 June 1993 presidential elections.
- We appeal to all people of conscience all over the world to insist on respect for the will of the people of Nigeria as expressed in elections prior to and including the presidential elections of 12 June 1993.
- We call on Nigerians at home to boycott any new elections and to take measures to establish parallel zones of authority at local levels to deny any legitimacy to Abacha’s transition.
- We demand that all political prisoners in Nigeria be released immediately and without conditions, and also that president-elect M.K.O. Abiola be released to form a broad-based Government of National Unity.
- We call on the international community to impose [an] oil embargo and full economic, cultural, and sporting isolation on Nigeria until democracy is restored.
- We call on all governments, the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, the European Union, and nongovernmental organizations to desist from giving the Abacha dictatorship any semblance of legitimacy by: (a) not providing any financial, logistic, or other support for Abacha’s illegal elections; (b) not sending any observers to his shambolic elections. [End Page 183]
- We strongly advise all governments, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international financial institutions not to negotiate any further debt rescheduling or grant any new loans to the Abacha regime, as the future legitimate government of Nigeria will not be compelled to honor such agreements.
- We request all governments to freeze all the assets of members of the military junta and their civilian collaborators.
As is suggested by the Field Report by Gustavo Coronel on pp. 157–65 above, corruption is increasingly seen as a critical problem threatening the effectiveness and stability of democratic government. A potentially important step toward addressing this problem was taken on March 29 in Caracas, Venezuela, where the member states of the Organization of American States signed an “Inter-American Convention Against Corruption” setting forth strategies for fighting corruption in the public sector. Excerpts from the document appear below:
The member states of the Organization of American States,
Convinced that corruption undermines the legitimacy of public institutions and strikes at society, moral order, and justice, as well as at the comprehensive development of peoples;
Considering that representative democracy, an essential condition for stability, peace, and development of the region, requires, by its nature, the combating of every form of corruption in the performance of public functions, as well as acts of corruption specifically related to such performance;
Persuaded that fighting corruption strengthens democratic institutions and prevents distortions in the economy, improprieties in public administration, and damage to a society’s moral fiber;
Recognizing that corruption is often a tool used by organized crime for the accomplishment of its purposes;
Convinced of the importance of making people in the countries of the region aware of this problem and its gravity, and of the need to strengthen participation by civil society in preventing and fighting corruption;
Recognizing that, in some cases, corruption has international dimensions, which requires coordinated action by States to fight it effectively; . . .
Bearing in mind the responsibility of States to hold corrupt persons accountable in order to combat corruption and to cooperate with one another for their efforts in this area to be effective; . . .
Have agreed to adopt the following Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. . . . [End Page 184]
Article II. The purposes of this convention are:
- To promote and strengthen the development by each of the States Parties of the mechanisms needed to prevent, detect, punish, and eradicate corruption; and
- To promote, facilitate, and regulate cooperation among the States Parties to ensure the effectiveness of measures and actions to prevent, detect, punish, and eradicate corruption in the performance of public functions. . . .
Burma’s National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, held its first national congress since its members were denied the right to take office after sweeping the 1990 parliamentary elections. In resolutions adopted on May 28, the congress opposed efforts by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), Burma’s military regime, to control the drafting of a new constitution through the National Convention. Excerpts appear below:
10. International practice indicates that dialogue, if the only way in which political problems can be resolved, should be pursued. Therefore, the congress strongly urges the SLORC to initiate dialogue as soon as possible with the aim of effecting national reconciliation and the integrity of the union.
11. In its present form the National Convention will not be able to achieve national reconciliation, the propagation of democracy, or the emergence of a state constitution acceptable to the people. The congress endorses and affirms the decision of the NLD to refrain from participating in the National Convention until such time as necessary discussions have been successfully initiated.
12. The congress endorses the submission of the NLD to the National Convention that parliament should be comprised only of representatives elected by the people exercising their sovereign right. . . .
14. (a) The SLORC proclaimed that state power would be returned to its original owner, the people, as soon as possible, in accordance with democratic practices; (b) On 15 August 1995, the chairman of the SLORC said that legitimate political groups were also relevant to the efforts of the armed forces to effect national reconciliation and that the armed forces were constantly trying to work in unity with all political parties for the good of the nation. . . .
The congress therefore strongly urges that as the NLD is a legally registered political party, all hindrances, obstacles, and restrictions placed upon its right to operate freely and effectively as a political party acting in accordance with democratic practices be removed as soon as possible.