Today is a big day for the future of Taiwan thanks to three major events: the one-year anniversary of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairperson election and the first Taiwan Nationwide Cleanup Day. Three disparate events, yet each has the potential to affect the nation for years to come.
A year ago today, Tsai became not only Taiwan’s first female president, but the first female leader in Asia not to gain office because she belonged to a political dynasty.
As the leader of the resurgent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), she not only returned it to power for a second time, but led it to a legislative majority.
However, much like her DPP predecessor in office, she has had to deal with the weight of massive expectations for change — albeit often unrealistic ones — and repercussions from Executive Yuan missteps, as well as the consequences of China’s odium.
The media this month has been filled with opinion polls rating Tsai and her administration, and she has fared poorly in most. Yet, as with everything else in Taiwanese politics, such ratings must be taken with a grain of salt and judged by where the pollsters fall on the color spectrum.
However, the government should still take note and make changes where needed.
Today is the start of Tsai’s second year in office, a period that will be crucial in determining both her and the DPP’s legacy.
Legacy is also at issue in today’s KMT election, the first to have so many candidates since the party began to hold direct elections for the post in 2001.
KMT leadership elections have long had the whiff of royal anointment to them since its party congresses began electing chairmen in 1975. There was just a single candidate each time, a preference that continued in 2001 and afterward. Only two elections, 2005 and last year, had more than one contender.
However, with the multitude of candidates this year has come a multitude of problems, including claims that some might be trying to pad the voter rolls by recruiting “dummy” members, as well as differing visions for the future.
The KMT is just a specter of the party it once was and much of that is due to its inability to change by carrying out either internal or national reforms, or to accept responsibility for its errors.
Today’s election will determine if it has any hope of survival as a single entity or a political force, and that will affect the nation’s political landscape.
The KMT has been riven before: Hard-core unificationists left to form the New Party in 1993, while James Soong (宋楚瑜) founded the People First Party (PFP) in 2000. It survived while these offshoots saw initial successes in the first two legislative elections they contested before gradually fading away as political powers. The question is whether the KMT — or any future breakaway — is going to fare any better.
As for today’s third event, the cleanup effort has the potential to bring major changes to the nation’s actual landscape.
While Taiwanese, and their governments, like to remind the world that Taiwan was once dubbed Ilha Formosa (beautiful island), a lot of that beauty has been tarnished or lost due to reckless development, pollution and disrespect for the environment.
While governmental action on the central and local levels is necessary to curb the first two elements, the public can do a lot to help with the third. Taiwan’s mountains, rivers and coastline draw tens of thousands of people, but too often these visitors leave their trash behind.
Civic groups, clubs and local governments have organized local beach or hiking trail cleanups to mark Earth Day in recent years, but it takes more than one day a year to clean up the mess. A second day will also only go so far, but making it a nationwide effort is good start.
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