According to TVBS opinion polls, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) approval and disapproval ratings seesawed during his first term.
However, after then-Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih’s (林益世) corruption case broke shortly after the start of Ma’s second term, his approval ratings have been below 20 percent, and his disapproval ratings above 60 percent, in all polls.
Ma’s popularity rollercoaster mirrors that of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Chen’s approval and disapproval ratings also shifted greatly during his first term. After corruption allegations emerged, his approval rating was below 20 percent and disapproval rating above 60 percent between 2005 and 2008 before the end of his second term.
Chen’s low approval rating was a blow to the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) performance in the 2005 local elections, and it caused the DPP’s defeat in the 2008 presidential election as lawsuits were brought against Chen and supporters deserted the party.
It seems that Ma’s popularity is even lower than then Chen’s was during his second term. As the improper wiretapping controversy continues to grow, some of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) legislators and mayors have repeatedly disagreed with Ma. It is unlikely that Ma will be able to reverse the situation before next year’s local elections and the 2016 presidential election.
It is important for the DPP to prepare to regain power. The party should display a new attitude to reignite hope in the nation. The public is so tired of the conflicts between the pan-blue and the pan-green camps and exhausted by a country that has lost direction, so it should bid farewell to the nightmare and confidently embrace a new future.
However, as the DPP strives to regain power, we have yet to see this new attitude, preparation, hope or confidence.
The DPP’s leadership and legislative caucus have employed “three constitutional arrows” — recall, impeachment and no confidence vote — to attack Ma.
Since it is hard for individual DPP legislators to get into the spotlight, their strategy of making a sensation might be good. Still, the public does not really trust DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘); 48 percent of the public believes that Ker should be punished for his involvement in the alleged improper lobbying, and only 22 percent of the public believes that he should not be punished. His support rating is actually as low as that of the Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, according to an opinion poll.
The DPP should certainly attack Ma for his poor performance. However, almost everyone is attacking him already. Perhaps the DPP should put its focus on the preparation for regaining power in 2016, and planning for the nation’s opportunities and challenges. By doing so, it can be more prepared for power than recent administrations. It can convince the public that the party is ready to rule again. This is more productive than attacking Ma if the party wants to win the 2016 presidential election.
The DPP’s defeat was in the context of Chen’s low approval ratings. The party might feel good about attacking Ma, whose public support is even less, but it will gain nothing from such power struggles. For example, the recent international press conference where the DPP accused Ma of breaking the law received little attention. This serves as a typical example of the DPP’s ineffective moves.
According to figures released on Sept. 30 from the Taiwan Indicators Survey Research, 54.2 percent of the public supports the legislative speaker’s use of the police when lawmakers occupy the podium to block legislative procedures. Does the DPP really want to exacerbate the confrontations in the legislature? Perhaps it should pay attention to what the public is saying.
The DPP’s preparation for regaining power should not be limited to policymaking. It should also recruit talent and persuade the ruling and opposition camps, as well as the public, to amend the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution again.
The experience of Chen’s and Ma’s rule over the past 13 years has proven that the incomplete Constitution no longer reflects the public mood and it can hardly ease conflicts over values or policy. Since the constitutional system itself has become the source of chaos, the government is moribund, while national development falters.
No matter what, amending the Constitution again is the only way to prevent anyone from repeating Chen’s and Ma’s mistakes.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
Translated by Eddy Chang