A politician’s personality decides his or her political style, and no matter how many fancy words are used to dress things up, character will in the end determine action. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) says that the service trade agreement respects public opinion, but this is beside the point because there are only two possible outcomes: either the agreement will be passed by the Chinese Nationalist Party-(KMT) dominated legislature, or review of the pact will be delayed past deadline, meaning it will take effect by default, just as did the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.
Ma, who has always lived a protected life with few, if any, hardships, is a narcissist politician who has won elections by packaging himself in pretty ads. He is so fond of himself that he wants only to socialize with similar people, paying little attention to anyone who is different. He uses people who are in his image, such as Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), Representative to Washington King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) and Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦). He is both uninterested and incapable of seeing people for what they really are, such as former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) and former Taipei City councillor Lai Su-ju (賴素如), and he even turns them into enemies, such as with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
Even though Ma only uses his own people, he will not delegate to them. For example, as soon as anything might harm his image or interests, he takes immediate action, disregarding all laws and regulations.
The nation’s highest executive leader, Jiang, was recently twice corrected by Ma — over the controversial Accounting Act (會計法) amendment and the ongoing Dapu (大埔) demolition controversy. This makes it clear that while Jiang, a former political science professor, may tell his students the premier is the highest executive official, in practice, it is the president who calls the shots.
Ma is both insensitive and not particularly good at what he does, which is why his government reacts slowly to events, and is always playing catch-up with public opinion. The result is that his reputation has dropped so low, both here and abroad, that he is better known for his incompetence than his achievements.
The service trade agreement and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), have generated a strong backlash from the public and opposition parties, but the government has done nothing.
More recently, it took public sentiment to reach boiling point before Ma instructed the Cabinet to promote the advantages of the service trade agreement.
The response? Two of Ma’s confidantes, Wang and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞平), talked to Shih’s hairdresser on Sunday about the pact as Shih was getting a haircut.
Ma may be a lame-duck president, but he seems to have no interest in improving either his weak policy achievements or low popularity ratings.
Instead he is focusing his energies on being re-elected KMT chairman to cling onto power, and arranging it so that his cronies can stand for election in the more important positions that will be up for grabs in next year’s local government seven-in-one elections.
Ma picks and chooses who he listens to, meaning he is deaf to anyone who says he has had more failures than successes.
Like the Titanic hitting the iceberg, this state of affairs is unlikely to avoid disaster. Whether KMT legislators listen to public opinion or to Ma will determine whether they abandon a sinking ship, or go down with their captain.