Fri, Jul 06, 2012 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Ma sitting on time bomb in run-up to US beef vote

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is clueless, helpless and “sitting on a time bomb” after the corruption scandal involving former Executive Yuan secretary--general Lin Yi-shih (林益世), with few policy options left, members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said.

Not only has the scandal, involving one of Ma’s most trusted aides, tarnished the president’s image, it has also raised doubts as to whether he will be able to muster enough votes to pass a controversial amendment on the relaxation of rules governing the level of residue of the livestock feed additive ractopamine in beef imports in the upcoming extra legislative session, which is scheduled to begin on July 24, they said.

“It is going to be even more difficult for Ma to get the amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) passed in the extra session because the latest polls show that his approval rating has fallen to as low as 15 percent,” DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.

Several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers have privately expressed their reluctance to vote on the amendment and are hoping that in the wake of his falling poll figures Ma will now change his mind about pushing it through the legislature, Chen said.

In addition, Ma’s low approval ratings mean that he lacks the necessary popular mandate relax the ban on ractopamine by an executive order, Chen added.

The scandal has dealt a major blow to the already shaky Ma administration, which has been plagued by a string of unpopular policy decisions such as fuel and electricity price increases and the dispute over US beef, since Ma was re-elected.

As a result, the morale of KMT members in the administrative and legislative branch is at its lowest point in years, Chen said.

The DPP issued a five-point demand to Ma on Wednesday, asking the president to officially apologize to the nation and reshuffle the Cabinet.

Based on Ma’s personality and political philosophy, which Chen described as “unpredictable,” he said he did not expect Ma to respond to the demands.

Even if Ma replaced Premier Sean Chen (陳冲), there would not be enough time for the new premier to coordinate the interagency effort needed to win the support of legislators on the US beef issue, he said.

The DPP insists that the issue of ractopamine should be dealt with in accordance with international standards agreed upon at the UN Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting, DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said, adding that the party’s position would remain the same even if no agreement was reached at this week’s meeting in Rome.

Wu said Ma did not have the “guts” to relax the ban by executive order and thereby disregard the wishes of a majority of Taiwanese and the divided KMT caucus.

After all of Ma’s policy mistakes, “I think the US somehow understands that, in terms of the US beef dispute, the DPP is a victim of those policy mistakes and should not be the scapegoat,” Wu said.

However, the KMT has a majority in the legislature, which means the DPP is also short on choices as it waits to see how the Lin scandal plays out and its political ramification for the upcoming extra legislative session.

“It’s not like we are taking pleasure at the KMT’s misfortune. However, the fact is that Ma and the KMT have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot over the past few months on the issue of fuel and electricity prices, US beef and now the Lin Yi-shih corruption scandal,” said a DPP official, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

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