The Double Ten National Day celebrations ought to be the most important day on the nation’s calendar. In the past, they have been. From the flag-raising ceremony at dawn at the Presidential Office Building and the parade in front of the building, to the evening celebrations and fireworks displays, it has been a joyous occasion. This year, the fifth year of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, things will be different.
Traditionally, the president and the public have attended the flag-raising ceremony. This year, the Presidential Office said that while the flag will be raised as usual, there will be no accompanying ceremony. It did not give a reason for the cancelation, although everybody knows the Presidential Office is afraid that protestors would use the occasion to throw shoes, which would have been embarrassing for Ma.
Parades are happy affairs, but Ma will not be smiling. As the parade’s main organizer, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) will be present. This will be the first time the two men have appeared together since Ma tried to oust Wang from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) last month. The media and the nation will not be concentrating on the celebrations, but on how Ma and Wang interact. It will be a painful parade for Ma to sit through.
During this month, flags and lanterns have been hung on arches erected along Ketagalan Boulevard. This will be the backdrop to a coalition of demonstrators: the 1985 Reform Alliance, the Citizen Alliance against Ma Ying-jeou and groups formed to protest specific government policies such as the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the forced demolitions of people’s homes in Dapu Borough (大埔), Miaoli County, and the cross-strait service trade pact.
The effect will be like pouring a bucket of mud over a beauty queen.
Parallel celebrations held overseas by expatriate Taiwanese have always been a major part of the National Day festivities. However, this year the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of San Francisco has decided not to celebrate the Republic of China (ROC) national day as it has previously done and instead highlighted China’s National Day on Oct. 1. It also decided in May to discontinue flying the ROC flag.
Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists other overseas Taiwanese or Chinese organizations in San Francisco will be celebrating today as usual, the story still casts a shadow over the events.
The change of mood this year is due to Ma. His public approval ratings have hit the low level of 9.2 percent. If the public was happy with the way he was governing, there would not be so many protests.
Had he not handled the allegations of Wang’s improper lobbying so badly — causing political turmoil, dividing the KMT, standoffs with the opposition and inhibiting the government’s ability to operate — these protests might not have arisen.
He showed his hypocrisy by accusing other people of improper lobbying and was then found to have been involved himself after the leaking of confidential information and wiretapping of the legislature.
After the muted National Day celebrations are over, Taiwan’s sorry state has to be assessed. It could be said that Ma is to blame, but who elected him to another term with full knowledge of his mediocre abilities? For that, the blame lies with voters.
The first year of Ma’s second term has been disastrous. It is difficult to imagine what the remainder has in store. Who knows where Taiwan will find itself if his string of unpopular policies — the service trade pact, the completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and public servant pension reform — are forced through the legislature.
Perhaps impeachment or recall of the president is the only way forward.