Political distraction is no laughing matter. People have quipped that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) latest approval rating of 9.2 percent perfectly reflects his Beijing-leaning tendencies, enshrined in his party’s so-called “1992 consensus,” and that the political battle between Ma and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is more entertaining than a prime time soap opera. However, the longer the distractions last, the higher the eventual costs.
Unfortunately, the power struggle within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is entering its second week and seems unlikely to end soon.
The alleged illegal lobbying, where Ma’s campaign originated from, is an important issue that should not be overlooked. However, after tasting defeat last week when the Taipei District Court upheld Wang’s provisional injunction to retain his party membership, Ma’s stubborn pursuit of his personal agenda spelled danger for both the KMT and the nation.
Ma began planning retaliation through an appeal of the court’s ruling, as well as a prohibition against Wang participating in the KMT’s party congress later this month, or any of its internal meetings. He then moved to shift attention away himself and the KMT’s infighting to the Democratic Progressive Party’s inability to deal with its caucus whip, Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), accused by the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office of asking Wang to influence a decision in his legal case.
Academics, politicians and civic groups have all expressed concerns that the constitutional process has been put at risk, and yet Ma appears unable to understand their unease, nor why his crackdown on alleged illegal lobbying has not been well-received by the public.
The opposition’s claim that the administration has jeopardized the constitutional process is legitimate. The SID apparently used illegal wiretapping, while never summoning those involved — Wang and Ker — for questioning. Prosecutor General Huang Shih-ming’s (黃世銘) direct report to Ma, as well as Ma and Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) remarks about Wang’s “incompetence” as speaker, were all infringements of the separation of powers.
Within the KMT, a party schism could arise if Ma, as chairman, alienates the “local wing” led by Wang, leaving the KMT open to be a party dominated by Mainlanders again.
Ma’s refusal to compromise could also complicate the new legislative session, which begins today, with tensions likely to be high within the KMT camp, and more generally tainted with displeasure over his attempt to make the legislature a lackey under his command.
Political turmoil could make the legislative session useless, if the central government’s budget plan, the review of a cross-strait service trade agreement and a referendum proposal on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), all remain unresolved by the end of the three-month session.
While the public may not be interested in the Ma-Wang showdown — they know there is something wrong with the way the nation is heading.
The economy and issues related to people’s livelihood are not likely to be discussed or show up on the media’s radar in the coming months if this political power struggle continues.
This is the reason Ma must stop the strife in the KMT now. If he refuses, he might take the country down along with his bottom-skimming approval ratings.