The embarrassing truth about how President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has concerned himself with electioneering rather than running the nation is becoming clearer by the day. Despite this, his approval rating keeps falling. Not only Taiwanese, but also foreign academics are starting to doubt his chances of re-election.
Shelley Rigger, associate professor of political science at Davidson College in North Carolina, recently said Ma’s prospects for re-election look bleak because of his abysmal approval rating and public dissatisfaction with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
One does not need to be a political scientist to predict that Ma’s frequent policy mistakes, his personnel problems and his longstanding low approval ratings will make re-election difficult. Rigger’s opinions were nothing out of the ordinary. However, she did say that one of the reasons the government has lost the trust of the public is because of its lack of transparency in policy-making.
The Democratic Progressive Party, for example, claims that senior KMT members are willing to sacrifice Taiwan’s autonomy to reach an agreement with Beijing.
Rigger also said a weaker government would be beneficial to safeguarding Taiwan’s interests because cross-strait talks are unequal and domestic opposition can help counteract this inequality. If we expand this statement, what Rigger is suggesting is that the government has lost public approval because of its cross-strait policies and could well end up falling from power as a result.
After Ma came to power, he did not change his mindset from that of a candidate runing in an election. He has sought to pave the way for his re-election, which explains why he has run around the country for almost two years stumping for candidates, shaking hands and posing for pictures. Ma seems to be at every event, big or small. However, when Taiwan needs decisions to be made or when leadership is needed in times of crisis, Ma is nowhere to be found.
All politicians care about gaining power and worry about losing it. However, when a newly elected president does not focus on his duties and only thinks about getting re-elected, what we have is a political hack.
The verdict given by public opinion is fair and the more politicians care about power and ignore national affairs for the sake of elections, the quicker the public will abandon them, and it will become increasingly difficult for these politicians to secure re-election.
Ma is trapped by his anxiety over losing political power and this renders him powerless and incapable of improving the situation.
The only way in which Ma can redeem himself is paradoxical: The more he wants to win re-election, the more he should forget all thoughts of re-election and rather show determination and daring in implementing policy. This is the only way he can do anything for Taiwan, win back public confidence and retain any hope of re-election.
For a person like Ma — who has only ever relied on personal charisma, the image of a superstar and the support he receives from a certain segment of society to ascend the political ladder — winning the public over through policy implementation will be very difficult, if not impossible.
The result? Ma will continue to put on an empty show and ignore national policy.
Tragically, Ma’s incompetence and policy mistakes are dangerous because they are misleading everyone. At its worst, this could lead to Taiwan’s annexation by China and turn Taiwanese into Chinese subjects. In all fairness, even if incompetent leaders are unable to do a decent job, if they are smart enough, they can rely on a strong administrative team to improve governance. Throughout history, there have been instances of peaceful and prosperous periods under governments following the ancient Daoist principle of non-action, or wuwei.