U.S. Beef and Tax Increases Test the New Cabinet
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 3, 2012
Summary: Prior to the general election, the political parties were at loggerheads with each other. They gave no quarter, and asked for none in return. But once the outcome of the election was confirmed, society on Taiwan quickly returned to normal. The ruling and opposition parties resumed their assigned roles, and prepared for their next mission. Neither the winning nor the losing camps showed signs of emotional backlash. Society as a whole faced the situation calmly. Such maturity and rationality is the pride of Taiwan. We should ask ourselves how we can move ahead given this shared asset.
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Prior to the general election, the political parties were at loggerheads with each other. They gave no quarter, and asked for none in return. But once the outcome of the election was confirmed, society on Taiwan quickly returned to normal. The ruling and opposition parties resumed their assigned roles, and prepared for their next mission. Neither the winning nor the losing camps showed signs of emotional backlash. Society as a whole faced the situation calmly. Such maturity and rationality is the pride of Taiwan. We should ask ourselves how we can move ahead given this shared asset.
The KMT won the presidential election. But it received one million fewer votes than last time. Before the election the DPP assumed it would win by a small margin. Instead it lost by nearly 800,000 votes. Still, it gained 13 seats in the legislature. Before to the election, both camp floated rumors. But voters on Taiwan had minds of their own. They made choices reflecting their own priorities. The two parties made gains and suffered losses. This means Taiwan is unlikely to encounter another "winner-take-all" scenario again.
Both the Blue and Green camps need to conduct post-election soul-searching. President Ma Ying-jeou said that during the New Year holidays, he spent four days "sitting in the corner pondering his mistakes." He asked himself why the KMT received so many fewer votes. He reflected upon his new cabinet appointments. During the New Year's holiday Tsai Ing-wen traveled around Taiwan thanking voters for their support. She said times have changed, and the DPP must change with them.
This election has taught the two major parties the importance of cultivating a new generation of supporters. If a political party wishes to govern long term, it must have a large pool of talent to draw from. Such talent takes time and experience to cultivate. Therefore the Ma administration must make room for the younger generation when making its party and governmental appointments. Tsai Ing-wen said the DPP needs generational change. Her words and actions may make some "party elders" uncomfortable. But time waits for no man. As the saying goes, "The water from the upper reaches of the Yangtze push the waters from the lower reaches into the sea." Only this can inject new blood into a political party. Only this can provide a nation with fresh drive.
President Ma and newly appointed Premier Sean Chen have reshuffled the cabinet. Most outsiders give them a thumbs up. Of course some remain unhappy. They consider the magnitude of changes inadequate. But the president and vice president elect will take office on May 20. By that time, assuming the public still wants fresh blood and a new climate, there could be yet another major or minor cabinet shakeup. The time between early February and May is either short or long, depending on one's perception. During this time, Ma Ying-jeou will be conisidering new political appointments. Naturally he will be making both short and long-term plans. Therefore his current cabinet roster is understandable.
The public is watching the Ma administration like a hawk. To establish a dependable economic team at this stage, Ma must first fine tune his cabinet appointments. That is a relatively safe move. The public expects a fresh, forward looking administration. But it also needs experienced governance. All told, this is the best approach. There is no need for "reorganization and restructuring." After all the goal is not "change," but rather "improvement."
The DPP lost the presidential election. Soon afterwards, party members demanded a review. Some blamed Taiwan entrepreneurs. They even demanded boycotts. But Annette Lu wondered whether the DPP party chairman's powers were too sweeping. She reminded people that the real issue was whether to recognize the 1992 Consensus. Chen Ming-wen noted how supporters were torn between voting their hearts or voting their pocketbooks. Younger leaders even demanded that Tsai Ing-wen answer for the party's defeat, and explain why the election turned out the way it did. This led to internal debate over the DPP's power arrangements and its policy toward "[Mainland] China."
Tsai Ing-wen lost. But she still received over six million votes. She came within striking distance of the presidency. Tsai Ing-wen, DPP leaders, and DPP supporters may feel aggrieved. That is only human. But DPP leaders and DPP supporters must not forget their original intent. They must set aside their feelings of disappointment and loss, and regroup. Of course, there is always hope for the future.
Many consider the recent election a model of democracy. The winner was not arrogant. The loser was not sore. More importantly, the public on Taiwan remained law-abiding and rational. Together they established the indispenable "iron triangle of democracy."
The peaceful conclusion of the electoral process is merely the first chapter in the story. The election results are now known. How will the future unfold? The challenges have just begun. The new cabinet is still warming up. The U.S. beef controversy and the tax increase controvery loom. Now that Ma Ying-jeou has won, he must face this, the first test of his administration. Will he pass muster? The public is holding its collective breath. Many voters on Taiwan want to know whether the choice they made a month and a half ago was a wise one.
Of course none of these issues is new. The Ma administration has encountered them all before. The process may be tortuous. The questions may be old. But that does not mean the Ma administration already knows the answers. Problems arise quickly. Ruling administrations soon finds themselves beseiged. The new cabinet will officially take office next Monday. Perhaps this is too cruel. But didn't newly appointed Premier Sean Chen say that having an old hand at the helm was reassuring? The cabinet includes veteran financial and economic experts in addition to agricultural experts. Wasn't the reason for their appointment so they could hit the ground running? The second journey following the general election is about to begin.