As the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lost its grip on absolute power, two political stars were born: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). While the two formally represent or represented the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), their emergence also created an enduring ideological division along “green” and “blue” lines.
This division has thrust the political culture deeper into the “soy sauce vat” coined by late writer and human rights activist Bo Yang (柏陽).
When these two icons appeared on the scene, the public were given hope — pan-green-camp and pan-blue-camp supporters, at least, felt they had found their saviors.
However, after gaining power, they were ridiculed over their styles of governance. Chen is now viewed as corrupt, and Ma, who had a chance to rise above his predecessor, is now subject to public scorn because of his poor handling of the disaster caused by Typhoon Morakot.
Judging from the way things stand, it is probably safe to say that the “Ma and Chen era” is over.
I say this because Chen lost many of his strongest supporters after corruption charges were filed against him, with even some “deep green” voters making it known that they were examining the follies of their ways.
Ma’s decision-making abilities, however, had always been questioned by the public, but his reaction to Typhoon Morakot disappointed even many “deep blue” supporters.
These two forces are the basis for conflict between the pan-blue and pan-green groups. If this foundation weakens, there could be an opportunity to resolve their ideological differences.
Political leaders should be able to shape political culture in their favor.
At the same time, their opponents should provide the environment for diversified political development. Taiwan should possess both, but the personal flaws of Ma and Chen have put paid to this for the moment — and this is a great pity.
We should be happy about the simultaneous demise of the two leaders because it means that neither side will gain a comprehensive advantage, and that it may be possible to bridge the blue-green ideological divide. The demise of Ma and Chen will not only mean that others will have the opportunity to shine, but also that the public will be able to take a more balanced view of the nation’s political developments, thus benefiting the political atmosphere.
Everyone is focusing their attention on helping victims of Typhoon Morakot, while very few are paying attention to political changes. But these changes represent a turning point for Taiwan, whose political scene has been overly rigid for a long time, and may encourage people to place less emphasis on politics.
We can now see how a minority of radicals have influenced Taiwan’s political development over the past few years. It would benefit political stability if we can use this opportunity to calm the radicals or at least make them less willing to voice their opinions.
The post-“Ma and Chen era” is here, and the public has reason to feel more comfortable about what lies ahead.
I worry, however, that certain ambitious politicians will create new political stars to increase their or their party’s power.
This would be disastrous, as it would be the start of another era of blind political worship and ideological warfare.
Li Kuan-long is a lecturer at Shih Chien University in Kaohsiung.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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