Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Life Goes On

Lots of great posts around the English TaiBlahggers (Wandering to Tamshui, David at Jujuflop, The Foreigner, and Maddog). Most everyone seems to think that this affair has worked out in favor of Anette Lu, the Vice President, and James Soong, and has been a blot on Mayor Ma's record, as he keeps reversing himself. Jason notes:

Ma Ying-jeou - We’re still waiting to hear from that handsome and visionary young leader who’s willing to turn away from politics as usual and do something positive for the country. If you see him, tell him to give us all a call. (Update: Yam's now reporting Ma has once again changed his tune and caved into hardline demands to topple the Executive Yuan's Cabinet, saying he won't rule such a move out. The more things change...

Speaking from the perspective of foreigners who know a little about Taiwan, Ma has certainly looked awful, allowing events to dictate to him rather than dictating to them, and flip-flopping on many important issues. Ma has also suffered a major blow as James Soong, Chairman of the rival PFP party and personal rival of Ma, has revived his career and his party, and positioned himself once again as a major player.

The big knock on Ma is all the waffling and weakness. But that was always the knock on Ma. Nobody held it against him when one day he stridently called for no negotiations with China until the Chinese removed the missiles pointed at Taiwan, and the next, this had to be "clarified" by a sudden reversal of his position. Then there was the time that Ma inserted a toe into the Centrist depths by saying that the KMT could support independence if that's what the people wanted. Oops! That too had to be corrected the following day.

The point is that Ma has been doing the Ma Shuffle (one step forward, one step back, 180 degree turn left, 180 degree turn right. Repeat) over and over again throughout his tenure as leader and nobody really seems to mind. I have not heard any negative remarks about him among the public. So at the moment I can't join the consensus and say that Ma has taken a hit here. Relative to Soong, sure, Ma has suffered. But he hasn't lost position in any absolute sense. The public does not appear to be less confident in him than before and his Presidential hopes remain intact. The way things are at the moment, Ma could rape a sheep at rush hour on the steps of the Presidential Palace, and emerge unscathed: the largely pro-Blue media would blame the sheep for walking around without any clothes on, and Chiu Yi would accuse it of being involved in an illegal deal for shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Corporation.

[[UPDATED to add:
Let's not forget too that Ma has always been the follower. Remember when the Blues blew the 2000 election and there were protests against Lee Teng-hui, then the KMT party chair, in Taipei? Ma was then mayor, and instead of calling for order, he went down and joined the protesters. Whenever spine has been called for, Ma has invariably gone all rubbery. Switching his positions and following the mob are two of his most characteristic behaviors, and they really boil down to one behavior: following the mob.]]

Soong meanwhile has certainly done a nice imitation of It Has Risen From The Grave, and more power to him, since he splits the Blues, benefiting the Greens. If Ma's goal really was to align himself with the PFP to blur the differences between it and the KMT, so he can bring them back to the fold, the opposite effect has been achieved -- the PFP is back in the limelight and Soong is positioning himself to bargain for a spot on the 2008 ticket, if he can keep his party alive long enough.

Many people have noted that Soong just keeps helping the Greens by splitting the Blues, and here is yet another example. Because the recall motion failed, the President cannot now be recalled for the reminder of his term. If Chen really does do something requiring recall, they can't get to him. Another example of Soong helping the Greens? Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Ma says the recall failure is a victory for corruption. The man is a master of deadpan humor. I especially enjoyed this:

Rather, Ma said his party's 90 legislators will organize small seminars in their constituencies to preach the importance of integrity so as to revive what he called the old moral values.

"The old moral values." You know, the values of shooting your opponents, arresting local businesmen to shake them down for cash, spying on your nationals abroad, forming alliances with local organized crime, and running a nasty dictatorship.

UPDATE: ESWN collects polls as he usually does. One poll struck me:

(China Times) (727 adults interviewed by telephone on the evening of June 27)
- What next? 28% push for no confidence vote in government; 36% disagree; 36% undecided.
- Should KMT go back to moderate road? 69% yes; 10% no; 21% no opinion.

Look at that second question. Does it indicate a problem for the KMT if it continues to march a half step behind the PFP? 69% want KMT to return to moderate road. Now look at the first: 72% are either undecided or opposed to a no confidence vote. I'm sure curious to see how these numbers will look after a summer of more attacks on Chen Shui-bian.


David said...

Agree with most of what you say, but a few points:
* I'm pretty sure that Chen can still be recalled. AFAIK, the Blues could start another recall procedure tomorrow if they so wished.
* I agree on the Ma shuffle - but he never said the KMT could support independence. He said the Taiwanese people could. His subsequent backpedalling was hence a softening of the wording (to appease the hardliners), but not a contradiction.

Finally on Soong - our long-running debate :)
"Many people have noted that Soong just keeps helping the Greens by splitting the Blues, and here is yet another example."
He hasn't split the Blues on the recall - instead he's led MYJ around by the nose (as Ma's desparate to avoid a split).

I do wonder whether, as we get closer to 2008 elections, Ma will have to start clarifying his positions a bit more ... a leader of the opposition doesn't need a clear platform as much as a presidential candidate. We shall see.

huoguo said...

Ma can't rely on a teflon hide forever - although its done him good service so far. But he's still weak reletive to J.Soong and Lien chan & co (the crusty old guard). And he's not enticed Wang to get over it either. So more of the same for quite some time i'd say.

The Foreigner said...

I thought the recall was a one shot affair, too. (All that talk about "one bullet being in the chamber", and all.)

But Soong is saying they can try again:

"James Soong [said] they would push for another recall motion after a new legislature is convened."

(BTW, glad your site allows comments from folks without Blogger accounts again.)