China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 22, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai has repeatedly stressed her determination to maintain the status quo. She hoped to win over swing voters. She hoped to broaden her support base. She hoped that swing voters and pale blue voters would flock to her. The defection of swing voters is a warning to the Tsai government. She must address the 1992 Consensus.
Full Text Below:
Shortly after taking office, past presidents have invariably sought to transcend blue vs. green political affiliation and become presidents to all the people. President Tsai is no exception. Since taking office on May 20, her cabinet appointments have included members of the blue camp and civil service politicians. Her policy proposals have sought to ensure stability. Even on cross-Strait issues, she has been prudent. As a result, deep green elements are very unhappy. They are constantly pressuring President Tsai to start over. They have even demanded that the entire Lin Chuan cabinet be replaced. But President Tsai has held her ground. She has not changed either existing policy or existing personnel, with the sole exception of her Executive Yuan spokesman.
But as with past presidents, President Tsai's attempt to win the support of a majority of voters has failed. On the one hand, blue vs. green opposition has intensified. Different camps have taken diametrically opposed attitudes toward the Tsai government. According to previous TVBS polls, 75% of all DPP supporters are satisfied with President Tsai's performance. Up to 63% are satisfied with Lin Chuan's performance. Conversely, 71% of KMT supporters are dissatisfied with President Tsai's performance. Up to 67% are dissatisfied with Lin Chuan's performance.
According to another poll commissioned by the KMT think tank, 29.7% of those who switched from Ma to Tsai in 2012 and 2016, have changed their minds a second time. They are unhappy with Tsai's policies during her first 100 days. Among those who voted but did not specify whom they supported, 30% were unhappy with Tsai's performance. This means that blue camp supporters are returning home. Even more alarmingly, swing voters who are unhappy with Tsai's performance outnumber those who are happy. According to a TVBS poll, 31% of swing voters were dissatisfied. Only 27% were satisfied. As many as 38% of swing voters were dissatisfied with the Lin Chuan cabinet's performance. Only 23% were satisfied.
This swing voter turnabout was expected. The Tsai government's philosophy of governance seeks stability. But what Taiwan needs is a breakthrough in her current plight. In other words, the Tsai government's policy path is the problem. On today's Taiwan, the differences between the blue and green camps are many. They include cross-Strait policy, social welfare policy, and industrial policy. But the sharpest distinction between the KMT and the DPP is over cross-Strait policy.
Over 30% of all swing voters want to maintain the status quo. This is because swing voters and economically motivated voters have long overlapped. These voters are not so particularly concerned about blue vs. green reunification vs. independence ideology. They are more concerned about sound governance and economic development. On matters of reunification vs. independence, they seek to maintain the status quo, or hope to delay any decision for later, in order to avoid the risks either might pose for the status quo.
During the 2012 election, economically motivated voters chose to support Ma Ying-jeou. This does not mean they agreed with reunification. This meant they thought the 1992 Consensus would ensure stable cross-Strait relations. That in turn would ensure Taiwan's economic development. But four years later the Ma government failed to ensure the equitable distribution of the dividends of cross-Strait exchanges within society as a whole. Therefore swing voters shifted in favor of Tsai Ing-wen, precisely because they wanted to change Ma government economic policies.
This does not mean that swing voters support the cessation of cross-Strait exchanges. They merely seek cross-Strait equilibrium. They do not want to be too close to the Mainland. Nor to they want to move too far. Once President Tsai came to power, she dragged her feet on the 1992 Consensus. This led to a freeze in official cross-Strait interactions. This has also affected cross-Strait people to people interactions. Swing voters have begun to have doubts, and have begun to repudiate the Tsai government.
According to a TVBS poll, 43% of the people are unhappy with the Tsai government's cross-Strait policy. Only 36% are satisfied. This is obviously higher than the percentage of blue camp supporters within the population. According to the Kuomintang poll, 30% think that cross-Strait relations have become strained. With steady pressure from the Mainland, cross-Strait tension has continued to rise. More and more people are realizing that cross-Strait relations are deteriorating. According to the latest polls, those who advocate swift reunification or swift independence have risen to 7% and 16 % respectively, the highest in recent years. Those who advocate maintaining the status quo indefinitely, or declaring independence immediately, have fallen to 47% and 15% respectively, the lowest in recent years.
This reflects people's pragmatism. More and more people have come to realize that since the Tsai government took office, cross-Strait tensions have skyrocketed. They have begun to take a serious look at cross-Strait reunification vs. independence issues.
Interestingly enough, according to a Taiwan Indicators Survey Research poll of southern Taiwan, voter support in die hard green camp districts show even greater change. During the general election DPP support exceeded 60%. Now however, over 33% are unhappy with President Tsai. In southwestern Taiwan that number is up to 39%. Not only swing voters are disaffected with Tsai. Even green camp supporters are expressing disappointment. These people are dissatisfied because their economic interests have suffered. When cross-Strait relations were good, the Mainland procured large quantities of agricultural products from Taiwan. Now the relevant incentives have been significantly reduced. Local farmers and fishermen are definitely feeling the pain.
President Tsai has repeatedly stressed her determination to maintain the status quo. She hoped to win over swing voters. She hoped to broaden her support base. She hoped that swing voters and pale blue voters would flock to her. The defection of swing voters is a warning to the Tsai government. She must address the 1992 Consensus.