Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 2009 Elections, A Knock-Off of the 2008 Election?

The 2009 Elections, A Knock-Off of the 2008 Election?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 15, 2009

Less than eight months from now the counties and municipalities will be holding local elections. It now appears that the year end County and Municipality Elections will be a facsimile of last year's Presidential Election. This tells us that for the past year the entire island has remained mired in the political morass of the Presidential Election, unable to go beyond it, unable to extricate itself.

The major issues in this year's County and Municipal Elections are, for the most part, identical to last year's Presidential Election.

One. During last year's Presidential Election, the Democratic Progressive Party engaged in serious infighting over whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian." This year the infighting is worse. During last year's Presidential Election, Frank Hsieh tried to distance himself from Ah-Bian, but couldn't quite pull it off. Although Ah-Bian had already been marginalized, the two sides maintained their decorum. This year however, Chen Shui-bian has already opened fire on "Tsai, Su, Hsieh, Wu" (Tsai Ing-wen, Su Tseng-tsang, Frank Hsieh, and Wu Nai-jen). He has also declared Tainan County the epicenter of his Shock and Awe campaign. Chen Tang-shan asked, "How can a political party dominated by heartless people transform the nation into a society with heart?" That the tense atmosphere has yet to ease comes as no surprise. This year's Democratic Progressive Party in-fighting may well be worse than last year's.

Two. During last year's Presidential Election, the Frank Hsieh/Su Tseng-chang election team's final campaign theme was the accusation that the KMT was creating a "One China Market," in which "Taiwan men will be unable to find work. Taiwan women will be unable to find husbands. Taiwan children will end up as child labor in Heilongjiang." This year, given the fourth Chiang/Chen Summit in the second half of the year, the DPP will probably rail against ECFA. Therefore it is certain to become the theme of the County and Municipal Elections. In which case the County and Municipal Election campaigns will heat up whether one wants them to or not. The final card is bound to be the tired old accusation that the KMT is "pro-Beijing" and "selling out Taiwan."

Last year's Presidential Election campaign was two intertwined themes. The first was whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian," and "Who is selling out Taiwan?" The year end County and Municipal Elections will revisit these themes and intensify them. DPP infighting over whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian" will intensify. Now that ECFA is on the table, allegations that the KMT is "selling out Taiwan" are even less likely to end.

This means that Ma Ying-jeou's attempt to use his landslide victory at the polls last year to educate or win over those who oppose him has failed. At least his hope of changing the Democratic Progressive Party has been dashed. Meanwhile, ever since the Democratic Progressive Party's debacle in 2008, it has sought to extricate itself from endless controversies over whether to "Support Chen Shui-bian" or "Dump Chen Shui-bian." It has sought to transcend its past positions on cross-Strait policy and national identity. But for the time being its hopes have also been dashed.

For both the Pan Blue and Pan Green camps, the 2008 Presidential Election was a rare historical opportunity. It initially seemed that Ma Ying-jeou might be able to use his victory at the polls to reunite a divided nation, and that Tsai Ing-wen might have been able to use the DPP's defeat to faciliate the party's transformation. Now it appears both have failed. Otherwise, why is the year end election turning into a knock-off of last year's Presidential Election?

Tsai Ing-wen's methods suggest that she will not retreat from her decision to "Dump Chen Shui-bian." She finds herself in a "Do or Die" situation. Therefore she must intensify her rhetoric on issues such as ECFA. If she wants to maintain control over a "Democratic Progressive Party without Chen Shui-bian," she must play issues such as "sovereignty" and "Taiwan-centric thought" and ECFA for all they are worth. She must assure Pan Green supporters that although the DPP is no longer the party of Chen Shui-bian, it remains the party of Taiwan independence. If Tsai Ing-wen fails to persuade its supporters, she will not be able to dump Chen Shui-bian. But if Tsai Ing-wen treats supporting Taiwan independence as a substitute for supporting Chen Shui-bian, and denounces ECFA as "selling out Taiwan," the Democratic Progressive Party will paint itself into a corner.

As for Ma Ying-jeou, he failed to make take proper advantage of his 2008 election victory. He retreated from the frontlines. He refused to assume the party chairmanship. Not only did he fail to seize the opportunity, he drove his own ratings and his party's ratings so low they became an embarrassment. He relieved the Democratic Progressive Party of external pressure to reform. He ensured that the Pan Blue and Pan Green camps would remain mired in a McCarthyite struggle over "Who is pro-China?" and "Who is selling out Taiwan?" In 2008, the public mood and political circumstances presented Ma Ying-jeou with the perfect opportunity to do the right thing. But Ma Ying-jeou failed to live up to the public's expectations, and missed a rare historical opportunity.

In democratic politics, every election constitutes "extra innings." Therefore going into extra innings is a matter of course. As long as each election helps unify the nation and achieve consensus, it can advance constitutional rule. Today however, the 2009 elections, remain mired in mud-slinging over how to deal with Chen Shui-bian and "Who is selling out Taiwan?" We would like to ask Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen, haven't you let down your nation and your fellow citizens?

2009.04.15 06:09 am











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