Election-obsessed Taiwan will hold two major elections — presidential and municipal — next year and in 2016, respectively. With the prospect of power transitions at the local and national level, many politicians in the pan-blue camp are eager to find a succession strategy or leave a legacy.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is serving his second and final term, has been desperate to establish his historical significance since his re-election last year, with cross-strait development his top priority.
The cross-strait service trade pact signed last month is just the latest evidence that cross-strait relations have moved into the fast lane. Without the pressure of seeking another term, Ma is ignoring public concerns about the pact’s adverse impact on Taiwan’s industries and insisting on signing it with neither the legislature’s nor the public’s consent.
Establishment of representative offices on each side of the Taiwan Strait and signing a goods trade agreement will be the next steps under Ma’s cross-strait policies. Political talks with China, which Ma promised not to launch during his presidency, could happen next, because once he has won re-election as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman next month, he will have no scruples about pursuing closer cross-strait ties and starting political talks.
Another pan-blue politician who is anxious to leave a legacy is Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌). With his eight years in office ending next year, he has become more outspoken about political issues, seeking to distinguish himself from other KMT politicians as he tries to prolong his political career.
Hau has voiced support for former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) medical parole and opposed the Ma administration’s plan to hold a national referendum on the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
During a meeting with Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) in Shanghai last week, Hau called on the government to address domestic opposition to the service trade agreement and said China should also make promises to ease the concerns of Taiwanese businesses. He has been promoting former Taipei EasyCard Corp chairman Sean Lien (連勝文) as his preferred successor. Lien, son of former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), has attended activities with Hau, including the Taipei-Shanghai City Forum last week. Hau clearly intends to consolidate his relations with the Lien family, shoring up his political strength after his mayoralty ends.
As the power struggle over the top position in the post-Ma era intensifies, Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is desperate to salvage his credibility, which has been damaged by the dispute over the impending demolition of four homes in Miaoli County’s Dapu (大埔) neighborhood.
The four families and their supporters have lashed out at Wu for failing to honor his 2010 pledge to preserve their homes. With mounting criticism, Wu began intervening last week and organized a meeting on Friday with Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺).
When the negotiations failed to dissuade Liu from tearing down the four homes, Wu changed tack and insisted that the government must adopt flexible measures to handle the thorny issue.
When it comes to political wrestling and the personal gains of politicians, ordinary people are often the biggest losers, with their rights easily sacrificed. As such, Taiwan’s upcoming elections are an opportunity for the public to regain these rights: They can grant power only to those who strive to serve the public interest and they can end the careers of politicians who do not.