It takes a great deal of stupidity for someone to add oil to the fire his enemy tries to burn him with, and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration did precisely this with the farce it conducted in the legislature as it scrambled to downplay yesterday’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rally.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers on Friday retracted their support for the DPP’s proposed amendments to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) and the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) after the government made a last-minute U-turn on its stance on the amendments, which are designed to prevent the monopolization of media.
The government’s abrupt change of mind highlighted its opportunism in handling the issue amid growing concerns about Chinese influence on Taiwanese media and the concentration of media ownership in the hands of conglomerates.
The KMT caucus had attempted to undermine the legitimacy of the DPP’s “Fury” (火大) rally by throwing its support behind the DPP’s proposed amendments in response to DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) call for the Ma administration to reject the controversial buyout of the Next Media Group’s Taiwanese outlets.
The seeming cooperation between the KMT and the DPP on the issue fell apart after Ma and top government officials admonished the party caucus for being careless in supporting the DPP, and instructed the caucus to vote down the “flawed” amendment proposals.
KMT caucus whip Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) later said that his “strategy” was to send the DPP’s amendments out of the legislature’s Transportation Committee and then block them on the floor to highlight the problems with the legislation. He also accused the DPP of rushing the vote to bolster support for the rally.
The government also defended its actions by insisting that a specific law should be established to regulate media ownership, and that it would draft a well-thought-out anti-media monopolization law.
Faced with growing public discontent with the government, Ma and the KMT should have seized the opportunity to carry out its promise of implementing reforms by working with the opposition to pass amendments aiming to prevent the formation of media monopolies. Instead, the government’s political manipulation of the issue has served only to fuel public anger over its poor performance and further eroded public’s trust in the administration.
The amendments farce once again showed the Ma administration’s inability to carry out government reforms. While it has pledged to reform the nation’s pension system and presented measures such as slashing year-end bonuses for retired government employees and performance bonuses for employees at state-run corporations, the measures target only entry-level employees and are temporary. The government is still avoiding calls to privatize state-run corporations.
As the nation continues to suffer from a sluggish economy, the Ma administration’s short-sighted reform measures have not satisfied anyone. Private sector workers are unhappy with the government’s partial reforms, while civil servants and employees of state-run corporations are angry over the government’s stripping them of the benefits they were offered to join the public sector.
The fundamental issue behind the public’s anger is Ma’s failure to boost the economy and implement reform, as high unemployment and low salaries breed class antagonism.
The Ma administration must take action to revive the economy and narrow the wealth gap, or the public’s fury at the government will not subside after one rally.