Sun, Dec 07, 2014 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Academic reflects on the implications of the elections

The results of Nov. 29 elections are a reflection of the change in public thinking about national politics, a silent revolution where the voters expressed their sentiments on being anti-political families and corporations that are pro-China, said Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology chairman Michael Hsiao in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen, adding that it seems to be public consensus to teach the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) a lesson through the elections

Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology chairman Michael Hsiao gestures during an interview with the **Liberty Times** on Nov. 30.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Liberty Times: What are your thoughts on the results of this election?

Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌): In the past year and half, Taiwan has truly seen a large change in politics, with civic groups and protesters beginning to consolidate democracy at the local level.

In 2000, when the opposition party came to power, many at the time defined it the completion of Taiwan’s democratic transition into a consolidated democracy. However, in reality it was simply a changing of presidents, premiers and other governmental officials, there was no “awakening” or lessons learned.

White-clad protesters rallied in August last year [demanding the military reveal the truth about the death of conscript Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and bring the perpetrators to justice], the Sunflower movement protests happened this March and April [protesting against the government’s opaque handling of the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement], and the food safety scandals in August and September have proven that democracy has not taken deep enough roots in the nation. The management of the democratic system is also a mess — the central government has failed to deliver and is not taking their responsibilities to deliver seriously.

The student protesters and civic groups in the Sunflower movement are most impressive, as their actions emphasize there are problems with the democratic process and representative democracy.

In terms of democracy consolidation, the results of the elections this time far exceeded what was anticipated. It might be strange to say this, because if we are to look from the perspective of a rational voter, the KMT deserved to lose, and lose hard. It had acceded to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) claims at every turn on cross-strait policies, achieved nothing on democratic reforms and paid absolutely no attention to the everyday life of society. Under such circumstances, the party would have been spurned by the public in any country with a democratic system.

Yet, why was there still such trepidation that the KMT might win [in the Nov. 29 elections]? There are several reasons. One is that the Taiwanese people are, after all, gentle and conservative. The second is that voters disassociate central government and local governments. Third, local political factions come into play.

The KMT’s landslide loss in the elections shows that rational voters exist in Taiwan who feel they can no longer be gentle by abstaining.

In the past I had my doubts about netizens and thought they only knew how to click the “like” button while abstaining from actual action, but since the Hung case I have to admit that netizens have their ways to mobilize and it is a new form of social activity.

This election not only saw this new form of social activity in action, but also saw the increased participation of citizens newly-introduced to the power they wield, which is heart-moving for ordinary citizens.

LT: What are the more in-depth reasons that the KMT was defeated in this election?

Hsiao: The KMT lost very heavily in the regions where it was defeated, and even where it won it only came out ahead by a small margin. The main cause of this was the abysmal performance of the central government.

Everyone knows that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) attitude toward democracy is problematic — almost anti-democratic, even.

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