Wed, Feb 08, 2012 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Reinforcing sovereignty seen as key to Ma’s final term

The new Cabinet faces a multitude of problems, ranging from utility price increases to US beef imports. In an interview with “Liberty Times” (the “Taipei Times’” sister paper) staff reporter Jennifer Huang, Citizen’s Congress Watch chairman Ku Chung-hwa said while the US only wants trade benefits, China wants sovereignty over Taiwan, so President Ma Ying-jeou must redefine the rationale for and maximum benefits of Taiwan as a sovereign country and not just rely on the “Chinese Dream” to solve Taiwan’s problems

Citizen’s Congress Watch chairman and National Chengchi University sociology professor Ku Chung-hwa gestures during an interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) in Taipei on Thursday last week.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Liberty Times: How would you view the results of the Jan. 14 presidential election? Will President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) be able to define and shape the evolution of his future values?

Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華): The votes Ma received this time cannot be compared with the previous presidential election because he lost 1 million votes this time. Given that the numbers of seats of the opposition parties in the Legislative Yuan have grown, there is hope that they would be able to form more of a deterrent to the implementation of the president’s policies.

However, the problem with Taiwan’s constitutional political system is that there is a lack of systems to oversee and counter-balance the [powers of the] president, unlike the West, where the Cabinet is overseen by the legislature, or where in the US system where the US president has to report to Congress and be monitored by independent committees.

In comparison with former premiers Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), who enjoyed more autonomy in the selection of their Cabinet members, it seems that in this term Ma wishes to be the only one with the power. And already his intervention in the formation of the Cabinet can clearly be seen as both [Vice Premier] Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺) and [Minister without Portfolio] Simon Chang (張善政) said they had received a call from the president [about their new posts.]

The president has also directly invited Cabinet members and on his own initiative proposed policy directions, such as the review of the US beef import issue.

In my opinion, Sean Chen (陳冲) is almost sure to be a premier without power and all there is to say on the issue is that the Ma-Wu-King [Pu-tsung] (金溥聰, Ma’s closest aide) system will only become more solidified in Ma’s second term.

Even if we can use the quadrennial presidential elections to monitor the president, we are without systems [granting] sufficient oversight of the decision-making of everyday policy.

This is one of the great problems with the Taiwanese political system and we can only expect [amelioration of the issue with] more mature civilian politics to give birth to civilian oversight or media pressure to form [sufficient oversight over policymaking] in the future.

LT: With the power of the new premier stripped away and the nation facing multiple domestic and foreign-related issues, what other challenges do you envisage in the future?

Ku: Many of the economic figures released prior to the election were immediately contradicted by those announced afterward and the [warning light on the] economy has fallen from “blue-yellow” to “blue.”

While the prices for water, electricity, gas and gasoline had been frozen by the government prior to the elections, the immediate post-election rise in prices for everything showed that the government was trying to gloss over the real problems through administrative manipulation, ignoring reality.

With the price hikes, the public is bound to feel disappointed and the disappointment could lead to hate. This, along with the downward slide in living quality and a sense of being fooled, these are the grim circumstances facing the new Cabinet.

The other problem is the US beef issue. My prediction is that efforts to allow the import of US beef will almost certainly to pass.

[While] many are describing this as an “electoral debt,” the Ma administration owes the US government for its former officials being vocal in their support for Ma prior to the election. [I think] the government has a script that it’s playing to and it has already promised the US to allow imports, while allowing certain channels in the country to vent their opposition, maybe even persuading or allowing people to conduct demonstrations against the imports. However, in the end the possibility of allowing the import of US beef is larger than the alternative.

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