Academics yesterday were in sync on the bleak outlook for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the remainder of his term, but were at loggerheads on how Saturday’s nine-in-one election results would affect Beijing’s Taiwan policy with the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) setback at the polls, which took many in the party and the public by surprise.
There was wide agreement among speakers at a forum in Taipei on the elections’ impact that Ma is officially a lame duck president and that poor governance was a major cause of the KMT’s defeat.
At the time of the symposium — which was hosted by the Institute for National Policy Research — it was not clear whether Ma was to resign as KMT chairman.
“Last year, the KMT charter was amended to make any KMT president the party’s ex officio chairman; maybe Ma foresaw the catastrophic result when that policy was written,” Ming Chuan University professor Wu Hsin-hsing (吳新興) said. “KMT infighting and political realignment will surely ensue [after the election failure].”
“Ma should step down both as KMT chairman and as president,” to avoid a prolonged power struggle within the party, said Tang Shao-cheng (湯紹成), a research fellow in the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University.
“Having [Vice President] Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) take over and consolidate party unity is the only chance that the KMT has to make its prospects for the 2016 presidential election somewhat hopeful,” Tang said.
The speakers said the KMT’s cross-strait relations program — including the service trade pact, which is awaiting legislative review — should not be pushed further by a lame-duck president and a governing party that has suffered such a drubbing.
“The pace of cross-strait interaction would decelerate, as the Ma administration has lost its legitimacy to deal with China,” Wu said.
Chao Chien-min (趙建民), director of the Graduate Institute for Sun Yat-sen Thoughts and Mainland China Studies at the Chinese Culture University, expressed pessimism over the effect a possible halt to dealings with China could have on cross-strait ties.
The voters have demonstrated with their ballots that neither the economy nor the nation’s international space is an important factor for them, Chao said.
“As the two issues are what the KMT has been championing, with this response, how far can the cross-strait relationship go?” Chao added.
Chao called the KMT’s thrashing “the beginning of a sad story.”
As cross-strait interactions wane, “businesspeople and talented people might migrate,” he said.
Chao said that during the former Democratic Progressive Party administration, Beijing refused to talk to the government, which meant there is no reason to believe China will change its Taiwan policy.
David Huang (黃偉峰), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica, said that the economy is the main issue for voters.
Huang said young people are distressed over skyrocketing housing prices and disapprove of “cross-strait brokers” who have been monopolizing dealings with China.
Nobody can deny that having exchanges with China is inevitable and necessary, but “it is the [existing] type of cross-strait interactions, which are monopolized by princelings, intermediate brokers and big corporations, that people are against,” Huang said.
“People are not convinced that the bonuses of the trade agreement signed with China’s government will trickle down to them,” Huang said.
Huang said that Beijing is flexible enough to refrain from forcing the so-called “1992 consensus” on pan-green camp political figures.
“It is when dealing with the DPP as a party and DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — if party-to-party engagement is to be done — that the Chinese government might have a problem,” he said.
Lin Cheng-yi (林正義), also a research fellow at Academia Sinica, said the DPP could follow the US’ suit and “acknowledge” rather than “recognize” the “one China” policy and suspend the controversy for the sake of cross-strait engagements.
At another forum on the results of the elections, panelists said the results showed voters — especially younger ones — protested government policies via their ballots.
The forum, held by Taiwan Thinktank, said that while the DPP benefited from voter anger against the KMT, the main opposition party should be cautious that it might also be swept by voters if it cannot appreciate the way they are thinking.
“Young voters are desperate, because they feel they might only be able to work at a drinks shop, making a little more than NT$100 per hour,” said Shih Cheng-feng (施正鋒), a professor in the Department of Indigenous Affairs and Development at National Dong Hwa University. “They are looking for a change, but the KMT would not change.”
“This time, it might be a tsunami. Next time, it could be a volcanic eruption that would sweep away even the DPP if it cannot appeal to voters’ desires,” Shih said.
Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin
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