Abandon Hero Worship, Return to Candidate Character
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 19, 2014
Summary: In the history of elections on Taiwan, elected superstars have almost
invariably become tragic figures. Voters elected a self-styled Moses, a
Don Quixote who tilted at windmills. Voters eleced a greedy "what's
yours is mine" kleptocrat. Voters elected a "New Taiwan 1992 consensus
president." Are voters more down to earth today? The old addage urges us
to "Elect the wise and the able." Electing politicians who can actually
govern in the year end seven in one local elections would be a good
Full Text Below:
The year end election is rapidly approaching. Campaign activities have become more frequent and provocative. Political parties care only about winning. The nomination process is indifferent about whom is chosen. Old or young matter not. Candidates are often nominated purely because of who they are. Nomination rules are often ignored. The politician may be forced to to undergo an ordeal, or his nomination may be pro forma routine. He may assume that he will eventually emerge the victor and wield power. Therefore he may be willing to remain silent. This is why anything migh happen during the year end election, and why chaos could easily erupt.
Have politicians seriously pondered why they seek victory? Is their motive really only lust for power? Consider Taiwan's two most powerful and charismatic politicians. One is currently serving time in a Taichung prison hospital. He suffer from a wide range of physical and mental disorders. Rumor has it he suffers from incontinence, and must change his underwear 30 times a day. The other has a public approval rating of 9.2%, the lowest in history. His "New Taiwan 1992 consensus" is widely ridiculed. He cannot implement any of his policies, making any sort of political accomplishments difficult. These two former political superstars were products of the voters' imagination. Their plight could be described as tragic. But if so, how should we describe the plight of the public? For 16 years their wages have remained stagnant, The gap between rich and poor has widened. Aren't they considerably more deserving of our sympathy?
Consider the situation from a global perspective. Salaries have fallen. The wealth gap has widened. This is a universal problem. But Taiwan's economic fundamentals are strong. It should be doing better. The global economy is undergoing regionalization. Taiwan has no response. It has become increasingly marginalized. Future crises loom. This decline took place over the terms of three presidents. Their popularity and ability were irrelevant. Political parties and politicians seek victory at the polls. Instead, they should be considering what sort of vision they can offer Taiwan after their victories. They should be considering what can they do for the well-being of the people, and not merely for their own popularity.
Taiwan's year end elections will be the largest scale local elections ever held. Candidates include mayors and city councilmen for directly administered municipalities, county chiefs and county councilmen, township mayors and township representatives, seven local village chiefs, and other public officials. Voters will elect officials from six mayors of directly administered municipalities, 16 mayors and county chiefs, and 11,076 other public officials, in an election known as the "seven in one elections." The seven in one elections are basically local elections. The candidates' policy platforms need not include such issues as "national identity" and "Taiwan's primacy." The candidates need not engage in illusory "spittle wars," but should get back to matters of public welfare. They should remain realistic and pragmatic. Voters should pay attention to the candidate's character and behavior, and in particular to the candidates' personnel appointments. Voters on Taiwan have been through numerous elections, large and small. By now they ought to know better. They ought to realize that voting for a Messiah or a Superstar is unrealistic, regardless of whether the candidate will govern a nation, a city, or even a local body.
Nearly 20 years have passed since the 1996 presidential elections. We can go even further back, to 1946, when the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office held elections on behalf of the people of each township. This was followed by public elections for county senators. County senators were elected on Taiwan when the provincial authorities conducted the first ever post-war elections. In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party participated in the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly elections. As of today, they have done so for nearly 30 years.
But how well do politicians and voters understand the nature and value of the electoral system?
Voters need to understand that in a democratic political environment, the most important factor is how one votes. Alas, voters on Taiwan feel little responsibility about the manner in which they vote. Before the election, voters are passionate. They show tremendous interest in the race. When the election is over, they are eager to see who won. Some are happy. Others are sad. It is as if everything is over. This voter mentality leads politicians to make indiscriminate campaign promises before the election. Before the election they deceive voters by promising "All you can eat!" After the election, the voters are dismayed when they learn the reality: "You will be eaten by all!" They will bicker endlessly while violations of the law are rationalized away.
In fact, all of this could have been avoided before the election. But only if voters had a sense of responsibility and valued their votes. But only if Blue and Green camp voters refused to be manipulated by campaign tactics. But only if they calmly and carefully voted for candidates on the basis of competency, public service, and their contribution to national progress. There would be no need for one social movement after another, destroying the political framework and dividing the social fabric of the nation.
In the history of elections on Taiwan, elected superstars have almost invariably become tragic figures. Voters elected a self-styled Moses, a Don Quixote who tilted at windmills. Voters eleced a greedy "what's yours is mine" kleptocrat. Voters elected a "New Taiwan 1992 consensus president." Are voters more down to earth today? The old addage urges us to "Elect the wise and the able." Electing politicians who can actually govern in the year end seven in one local elections would be a good start.
選民必須了解，在民主政治環境裡，人民反制掌權者最重要的力量就是選票，然而台灣選民對選票的責任感卻很薄弱，選民對選前的激情、爭執興趣盎然，選完了看看誰贏，有的人開心、有的人難過，然後彷彿一切就結束了。選民這種心態，導致政治人物習慣選前亂開支票，擺出滿漢全席誆你說：「All you can eat！」選後選民才痛苦的發現原來其實是「All can eat you！」然後又吵又鬧，甚至不守法也振振有辭。