Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Ma’s actions forfeit his leadership’s legitimacy

By James Wang 王景弘

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) may have been elected in a democratic process, but after his inauguration, he has done all he can to destroy democratic mechanisms, moving the country toward dictatorship and dragging relations with China back to the civil war era as if they were an internal domestic issue between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chinese Communist Party. By ignoring the nation’s sovereignty and democracy, he has forfeited legitimacy to rule Taiwan.

With his hired hands in the Referendum Review Committee, Ma has deprived the public of their referendum rights, directly challenging their freedom of speech. By letting his party lead the government, he has destroyed the balance of power by centralizing power in a one-man dictatorship.

Take, for example, Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊), on whom Ma relies heavily. Wang rarely supervises the government, his main responsibility, but loves to preach to others about Ma’s accomplishments. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who Ma has accused of being corrupt, acts like a deaf gangster who does everything Ma tells him to, even when it comes to the legislative process: He recently announced that the legislature was in session although the podium was surrounded by KMT legislators, disregarding objections from Democratic Progressive Party legislators.

By destroying the mechanisms for monitoring the government, Ma can ignore public opinion, reality and the legal code.

Not everyone is in favor of this state of affairs. Some people still try to reveal facts, and some media outlets refuse to become his tool. In this case, Ma uses a carrot-and-stick approach, declaring war on uncooperative media outlets and saying he will no longer “be polite” as he “fights back.”

Academics have called the media the fourth estate. Their main function is to report facts and monitor the government rather than act as a government mouthpiece. For example, the print version of the KMT’s party newspaper had to be withdrawn from a market that values freedom of expression.

The government’s role is to make and implement policy. In light of these powers, it is charged with explaining and defending its policies under public monitoring. If a policy is distorted or criticized for being unrealistic, it should offer an honest explanation.

However, the Ma administration is unaware of diversity in civil society and is hostile to criticism. Instead of meeting criticism with truthful explanations, it attempts to cover the truth and “fight back” using street language.

When media outlets criticize the government, it should provide a counter-argument rather than abuse because it plays a different role than the media. However, Ma ignores the differences between democratic mechanisms and tries to implement a dictatorial atmosphere where no dissent is tolerated. He has disarmed the legislature and the Control Yuan and learned from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) how to threaten the media to hush them. In doing so, he has buried the legitimacy of his rule.

James Wang is a media commentator.


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