The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) strategy for Saturday’s nine-in-one elections is to blame all of society’s problems on the performance of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration over the past two years. It neglects to acknowledge the KMT’s own culpability and shies away from offering any real answers.
There is a good reason for this: The KMT is responsible for many of Taiwan’s problems and has avoided addressing them in the past. Before voting to “punish” Tsai, Taiwanese should reflect on why they rejected the KMT in 2016.
The KMT is focusing on four slogans. It blames Tsai for slashing pension payouts; overwork and low wages; the exploitation of laborers; and farmers’ travails.
Pension reform has been extremely divisive. Had the government not taken drastic measures, the military pension program would be bankrupt by 2020. That is only two years away. The Public Service Pension Fund fell into the red in 2011. It was known some time before that this would happen. Then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) held numerous talks about the issue, but opted to do nothing, as reform would have resulted in a backlash from core KMT voters.
This was political negligence of the highest order. Tsai had no choice but to tackle the problem.
The KMT leadership is stretching credulity by wanting voters to believe that the issue of low salaries should be blamed solely on a party that has been in charge for the past two years. Wages began stagnating 18 years ago.
With regard to overwork and exploitation, the government’s amendments to the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) were specifically aimed at addressing these issues, legally requiring employers to give employees two days off a week. The backlash was due to the policy’s initial, ill thought-out implementation and employers complaining about reduced flexibility.
Voters should think about what it would mean if the KMT returned to power.
In response to concerns about the continued use of nuclear power in a nation in an earthquake zone, Ma’s KMT administration agreed in 2014 to mothball the unfinished Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, but remained open to recommencing construction at a later date. Tsai has committed to a vision of a “nuclear-free homeland” by 2025, phasing out nuclear power and oil, and increasing reliance on renewables.
The next issue is transitional justice. It is not surprising that the KMT would not want to focus on this: It no doubt has a pile of politically inexpedient skeletons in its closet that it would prefer remained there.
Finally, Taipei’s relations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should be considered. Ma made friendlier relations with the CCP a cornerstone of his presidency, and voters expressed their position on that in 2016. Tsai attempted to reset relations to be more equal and mutually acceptable, but was snubbed. The communists continue to suppress, intimidate and harangue Taiwan.
It is unlikely that the KMT would change its approach. Even though there are signs that Ma and much of the KMT’s old guard are becoming decidedly outdated, the reimagined “three noes” that Ma spoke of on Nov. 7, in which he — with a clumsy attempt at Orwellian sleight of hand — amended “no unification” to “no ruling out the possibility of unification,” demonstrate his lies and show where his sympathies lie.
The KMT wants voters to believe this election is about dealing a democratic clout to the government. It is actually a choice between continuing to support the Democratic Progressive Party or allowing the re-ascension of the Chinese Nationalist Party.
The clues are in the names.
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