The Nine-percent President (Ma Ying-jeou, 馬英九) has attempted to discredit the Sunflower movement and to weaken the opposition’s voice, but there is no denying that in Taiwan’s history of democratic movements a record was created when 500,000 people, labeled the “black-clad army,” took to the streets of Taipei on March 30 in protest against the cross-strait service trade agreement.
In addition to setting a new record for the number of protesters in a rally, the demonstration was backed by 80 percent of the public. This shows Ma has lost the legitimacy required for a president and if he does not start listening to the public, he will have to step down.
Ma — who did not fare too well in an article in the Economist titled “On the antlers of a dilemma” — should pay attention to the popular US television drama series House of Cards.
In the series, a president who faced impeachment stepped down, giving the reason that his approval rating had dropped to 8 percent, which meant he had no mandate to rule the county and should therefore resign.
Of course, since Ma suffers from an inflated opinion of himself, there is little chance he will step down even if the only Taiwanese who support him are his wife, National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and a few other senior officials. Expecting him to show any sense of shame or admit that he is wrong would be beyond him.
There are always a variety of reasons behind any historic event, and when things erupt on a mass scale, they are normally linked to a single, sudden event. It is not enough to look at the rise of the Sunflower movement from the viewpoint of the service trade agreement alone.
The movement has come into “full bloom” because Ma’s six-year administration has nourished public discontent to the extent that people now completely reject Ma and his actions, which can be characterized as tyrannical and against the public will.
First, those in power are incompetent and insincere. Ma not only failed to deliver on his “6-3-3” campaign pledge — 6 percent annual economic growth, US$30,000 per capita income and an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent by 2012 — propaganda which he used to get elected in 2008, he also failed to keep his promise of giving away half of his salary if he failed to deliver on the promise.
During his time in office, the economy has performed badly, salaries have dropped to the same level as 16 years ago and the unemployment rate has never fallen below 4 percent.
Still, Ma has been so shameless that he has claimed that his results are the best that the nation has ever seen and that the economy now ranks second among the four Asian Tigers.
Second, the constitutional crisis created by the Sunflower movement is a result of the contradictions between democracy and authoritarianism. On the surface, Ma and Jiang might seem to be friendly, well-mannered and liberal-minded, but they have no sense of democracy. This is especially true for Ma. From his time as a student until now, Ma has never supported democratic reform.
During the Martial Law era, Ma served as a poster boy for authoritarian rule. He opposed re-election of the full legislature, direct election of the president and ending martial law, and he also viewed the dangwai (黨外) movement — those outside the party — as attempting a revolt.