Wed, May 07, 2014 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Elections are the time for protest

While most Taiwanese focused on the student-led demonstrations in March and opposition to nuclear power last month, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee on Wednesday last week approved party chairman Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) nominations for vice chairmen — Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) — in an attempt to alleviate public discontent.

The apparent reason for the move was that it expands the decisionmaking team by integrating the views of local government leaders in the central leadership. However, in practice it was a knee-jerk reaction by a government in crisis that wants to retain its power and find ways to shift blame. The ultimate goal was to stabilize the situation ahead of the year-end seven-in-one local elections.

Open and transparent information is an important premise for a democratic society that wants effective oversight of government, but in terms of practical political operations, the public’s right to know is often obscured by various objective and subjective factors, which greatly reduce the efficiency of any oversight. The most important of these are the government’s true motives, which are normally intentionally wrapped up in a completely irrelevant discourse. The result is that people have to peel through layer after layer before they get to the truth.

Taiwan’s democracy still is not fully mature, and if the public cannot see through politicians’ motives and understand their goals, elections will become mere procedures whose only purpose is to provide a legal way of empowering politicians, while their ultimate purpose of keeping a check on power is lost. This is why effective oversight cannot be considered in isolation, but must work in combination with elections — it must abhor forgetfulness and shortsightedness.

Why does everything Ma’s failed government do focus on elections rather than on reflection and reform? To understand that, consider how it talks to dissidents within the KMT behind closed doors, while it finds hundreds of reasons to procrastinate and delay its response to protesters.

The public must be alert to whether, in the preliminaries that are quietly underway around the nation, the party is taking advantage of a lack of preparation to mobilize widely disparate resources and people in a full consolidation of local political power to gain another disastrous election win in a few months’ time. If that happens, what will the public do?

Opinion polls in 20 counties and county-level cities conducted by the Chinese-language Business Weekly found that if several of these counties and cities could not rely on government subsidies, the gravity of the deteriorating financial situation would force them to follow in the footsteps of Detroit and declare bankruptcy. In these counties and county-level cities, support for the mayors and county commissioners remains high. On closer inspection, the reason for this abnormal state of affairs is spending on lavish one-time events and welfare policies.

It should also be noted that Miaoli County has been listed as the only county that is about to be declared bankrupt. The land-based fiscal policy that Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻) has engaged in over the past few years has caught the attention of the whole nation, but it is questionable whether the political situation will improve after this year’s vote.

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