Tuesday, April 7, 2009

From Miaoli to Da-an to Taipei County

From Miaoli to Da-an to Taipei County
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 7, 2009

We could begin our tale in Taitung County, with Kuang Li-cheng. Kuang's declaration that she would "go to war in her husband's place" made her a laughing stock. Undeterred, the KMT stuck with her strategy in the Miaoli County Legislative by-election. The result? Even ultra popular Miaoli County Executive Liu Cheng-hung, who backed Chen Luan-ying, was shaken by the final count. Apparently the voters knew the score. Their conclusion? Go to war in your husband's place if you like. But don't expect us to go with you.

The KMT lost in Miaoli because their prime directive was: accomodate the vested interests. They never bothered to ask how the voters felt. Liu Cheng-hung is a Big Shot in Miaoli. What he says, goes. If he says "Back Chen Chen Luan-ying," then back Chen Luan-ying it is. He ignored public antipathy toward Chen Luan-ying "going to war in her husband's place." He rejected the possibility of alternative candidates. In the end, Liu Cheng-hung overestimated his own clout. In the end, he could not override the will of the electorate.

In Da-an District, the Diane Lee incident was left unresolved. Again, the prime directive was: accomodate the vested interests. KMT leaders weren't willing to be the bad guys who made the tough decisions. They waffled endlessly. They never bothered to ask how the voters how felt. When the Diane Lee incident erupted, the KMT had just scored smashing victories in the legislative and presidential elections. They were confident the public was behind them. The relationship between the Lee family and the KMT leadership was tangled and complex. Diane Lee's image was positive. Her ability to cope was estimable. As a result, both the KMT and Diane Lee adopted a wait and see attitude. They crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. They made the same mistake over and over again, digging themselves in, deeper and deeper. In the end, Lee had no choice left but to resign. The KMT lost popular support, and in the by-election scored a humiliating "victory."

How to interpret the results of the Da-an District by-election is to some extent subjective. But the key message was Pan Blue voters are alienated and angry, while Pan Green voters are relatively united. Compare the Da-an District by-election to the 2008 Legislative Elections. The Pan Blue turnout fell by 44%. The Pan Green turnout fell by only 25%. In other words, the total voter turnout was under 40%, but Pan Green voter turnout was 75%. If we take Yao Li-ming into account, the KMT received 54% fewer votes than last time.

The results of the Da-an District by-election is a model that reflects the existing political scene. It shows that political evolution has accelerated. It shows that the KMT's "victory" in 2008 is rapidly being eroded, and that the DPP is unable to dig itself out of its hole. On the one hand, the public is disillusioned with the KMT. On the other hand, the public has no confidence in the DPP either.

The upcoming County and Municipal Elections, Taipei County in particular, merely reinforce these perceptions. Su Tseng-chang will run. That is a foregone conclusion. Rumors suggest several former DPP legislators will run for Taipei County township and village mayors. How this will play out is difficult to predict. The DPP has already seized the initiative. It is gathering momentum, and preparing for a comeback. But the DPP has not even begun to reform and restructure itself. Unless Su Tseng-chang's candidacy leads to some sort of breakthrough, factions within the Green Camp will collide over national identity and cross-Strait policy. Sowing discord through negative campaigning and street theater, in the hope of snatching a few chesnuts out of the fire, will lead only to partial victories, possibly in Taipei County. Without genuine reform, the DPP will find itself mired in myopic political intrigue, inside and outside the party, domestically and internationally. If the DPP is preoccupied with ratcheting up political tensions, internally and externally, how can it possibly have energy left over for reform?

The KMT has the same problem with Chou Hsi-wei that it had with Chen Luan-ying and Diane Lee. On the one hand, Chou Hsi-wei may no longer be a viable candidate. On the other hand, Chou Hsi-wei is unwilling to withdraw. The KMT is unable to prop him up, and unable to force him out. Chou Hsi-wei may well turn out to be Diane Lee redux.

The KMT's problem is a lack of leadership. The KMT is adrift. By bowing to realpolitik, the KMT avoids its responsibility to lead. Making tough decisions, acting decisively, and changing the course of history, is only necessary if one wishes to lead. For example, the Public Servants' Unaccounted For Assets Act has been stalled in the Legislative Yuan for years. Only after public opinion turned against the KMT, did it sheepishly put the bill up for a vote. The KMT Legislative Caucus has betrayed its constituents. The reason is the KMT party leadership lacks leadership. The Public Servants' Unaccounted For Assets Act, the Diane Lee incident, and most other problems stem from the KMT's lack of leadership. This includes its current problems with Chou Hsi-wei, which did not begin yesterday. Most of these problems stem from a lack of decisiveness. The public could not tolerate Chen Luan-ying "going to war in her husband's place," because in Liu Cheng-hung's eyes there was only Chen Luan-ying.

From Miaoli County, to Da-an District, to Taipei County, the political scene is deadlocked, again. Suppose as a result of Chou Hsi-wei the KMT suffers an election defeat in 2008, and loses the chance to fulfill its election promises. Suppose the DPP, which has yet to undergo genuine reformation, moves up its 2012 presidential campaign for the sake of Su Tseng-chang. What will become of the long-suffering public on Taiwan?

2009.04.07 06:04 am










No comments: