The image of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has taken a hit since a scandal involving former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) made headlines last month, with a majority of the respondents in a survey released yesterday saying they did not believe Vice President Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) claim of innocence in the case and that there are likely more cases of corruption in the government.
Citing the poll conducted by Taiwan Thinktank, Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), convener of the think tank’s public opinion poll panel, said two out of three — or 66.7 percent of — respondents said they believed more high-ranking government officials were involved in the scandal, while 73.4 percent said they believed there were more undiscovered scandals.
Despite Wu in the past week pleading his innocence in the case, 64.4 percent of those polled said Wu’s explanation was questionable, while only 15.4 percent said they believed Wu and 20.2 percent said they had no opinion.
Ma has also been hurt by the widening scandal, with his “integrity index,” which asked respondents to rate the president’s integrity on a scale of zero to 10, falling from 5.84 in May to 5.43 this month, according to the poll.
Half of the respondents were not happy with the performance of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID), saying the SID had been “passive” in its probe into the case, while 31.6 percent said the division had been “aggressive.”
Public dissatisfaction with how the case was handled by government agencies showed as 39.2 percent of the respondents said Chinese-language Next Magazine, which broke the scandal, deserves the most credit for fighting corruption.
Ironically, the magazine has won more recognition than the combined support received by a number of anti-corruption agencies, including the SID, which was supported by 16.2 percent of those polled, the Investigation Bureau (5.6 percent) and Agency Against Corruption (3.3 percent).
The results showed that Wu might have to do more to prove his innocence in the scandal, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) told the press conference hosted by Taiwan Thinktank.
The survey also revealed that the DPP should not be overly happy about the scandal that has dealt a blow to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Lin said, because 41.8 percent of the respondents said both the DPP and the KMT were corrupt.
However, National Sun Yet-sen University political science professor Liao Da-chi (廖達琪) said she saw a “silver lining” in the pessimistic results.
“Perhaps Taiwanese have finally come to realize that it is extremely difficult to have ‘clean politics’ and they should always be skeptical about political parties and politicians,” Liao said.
That mentality is what democracy is all about, she added, because a democratic political system does not encourage people to trust the government completely.
“People’s trust in the media is not a bad thing either, since most well-known scandals, among them the Watergate scandal, were first reported by the media,” Liao said.
The survey on a wide range of issues showed that Ma’s approval ratings remained low at 23.4 percent, while 65.3 percent of the respondents were not satisfied with the president’s performance.
On the US beef controversy, 66.5 percent of those polled said they had no confidence in the government’s ability to implement the international standard for the livestock feed additive ractopamine.