On June 9 the results of another opinion poll were released, which contained a number of rather interesting figures. One of these was that more than six out of every 10 respondents thought that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), would not be able to stamp out corruption within his own party. A similar percentage also expressed doubts that he would root out corruption among government officials or state-owned enterprises, as he recently announced he intends to do.
The poll found that because of this skepticism, 57.5 percent of respondents believe Ma should concentrate on governing the country and relinquish the party chairmanship, with only just under 27 percent agreeing that he should continue holding both posts.
That an opinion poll could show these results a week after the government and the KMT swore they would investigate incidences of corruption shows two things: The KMT is regarded by many as a lost cause and trust in the president has collapsed.
In Taiwan’s first democratic transition of power in 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election on promises of an anti-corruption drive. Eight years later, it had not delivered on that promise.
In 2008, the KMT took the relay baton. Hardly four years had passed when a senior member of the party, a man close to Ma himself, former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), became embroiled in a major corruption scandal.
Lin has been accused of employing gangster-style intimidation tactics to extort money, in a way that goes far beyond the average passive acceptance of bribes, and the public is incensed.
So much for the Ma administration’s pretensions to being clean. Could it be that the chickens are finally coming home to roost?
It is essential that political leaders maintain the public’s trust. If they lose that, their political careers are in serious jeopardy. If a national leader’s power is terminally weakened, the country suffers. What, then, of the 23 million people living in this country?
A clear majority of respondents in the aforementioned poll oppose Ma holding both of his current positions, showing that there is already an overriding consensus among the public that Ma cannot steer the country on his own, and that he should delegate some of his power, allowing someone else to assume the KMT chairmanship.
However, merely curtailing Ma’s power within the party does not go far enough, for it will only prevent him from controlling KMT legislators in his capacity as chairman, and from effectively deciding which major laws are passed.
Even more important is how executive power is to be restored to its proper form, so that the system can operate as originally intended, instead of being controlled by one man from above.
If the government is hobbled, how can the state provide citizens with a future or hope?
In the past, Taiwanese presidents would seek consensus before deciding any contentious major national policies. From what has been observed in the machinations of the Presidential Office over the past few months, it is quite clear that Ma has no intention of going this route.
The only way ahead now is for political, economic, social and other leaders to come forward and make themselves heard, to unite and bring about the possibility of entering into dialogue with Ma. This will require more than just one individual taking action — it will take a group of such people who are able to use their collective wisdom, ability and influence to propose reforms and impress upon Ma that he should — or rather, must — carry them out.