Chinese Nationalist Party presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) landslide victory confirms Taiwan's democracy is thriving. Many citizens who voted for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2000 and 2004 blamed Chen and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the perceived failures of the past eight years. Thus, they quite rationally decided to vote for Ma. In many ways, this voter dissatisfaction with the DPP government continues the trends shown in the legislative election two months ago.
Ma must realize that his massive victory does not come from his cross-strait policies such as the "cross-strait common market." In fact, the most successful part of DPP candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) campaign was his dismantling of vice-presidential candidate Vincent Siew's (蕭萬長) "cross-strait common market" idea, a fact Ma realized as he repeatedly retreated on the common market policy. Tibet also showed the naivete of Ma's cross-strait policy.
Rather, Ma's victory was a defeat for the DPP's economic policies and for its perceived corruption. Ma must bear this in mind as he goes forward.
Ma faces some difficult decisions ahead of his inauguration date on May 20. His most difficult heritage is his reputation for making contradictory statements at different times. For example, when running for re-election as mayor of Taipei in 2002, he told me personally and then said in a major press conference that Taiwan's future should be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan. Recently, he reiterated this stance. Yet, on Feb. 12, 2006, and at other times, he said the future of Taiwan should be decided by the peoples on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Ma has also emphasized the threats posed by China and has even declared that the withdrawal of China's missiles is a precondition for cross-strait talks. Yet, at other times, he has expressed the opinion that if Taiwan is friendly to China, Beijing will in turn demonstrate friendship for Taiwan and give Taiwan more international space.
Clearly, China's repeated repression in Tibet, including the recent crackdown, has made a mockery of its original 1951 Treaty of Amity with Tibet. This clearly has lessons for Taiwan.
The KMT that Ma leads is very divided. On one hand there are the old, China-centric conservatives, many of whom go back to the dictatorial period. On the other hand, there are the more Taiwan-centric reformers. Ma is a bridge between these groups and frequently leaves both unhappy. Thus, the old conservatives refused to accept Ma's suggestion that the KMT publicly accept defeat in 2004 and they criticized him when he sold the old KMT party headquarters and old party-run enterprises.
So far, he has also proved insufficiently reformist for the younger members of the KMT. Bringing People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) back into the KMT is not a reform move. Neither is giving prominence to former vice president and KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰). And putting such recent criminals as KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) high on the party ticket for the legislature does not send a reform message either
I recommend to Ma that he ally with the reformers in the KMT. Thus, for example, he should not appoint KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), a former minister of economic affairs, as premier. Chiang, who is already 75 years old, lacks a reformist spirit. As deputy speaker of the legislature, he had a military honor guard snap to attention every time he or his guests entered his chambers. Such behavior belongs in a dictatorship, not a democracy. In addition, Chiang lacks any notion of reform or of a global world.