Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Odds and Ends

One of the more frustrating phenomena for those who want to create any kind of positive change in Taiwan is the public's habit of re-electing our legislature despite its constant complaints about how bad the government is. Its approval ratings are consistently low -- 28% in Feb according to this TVBS poll (recall that TVBS is blatantly pro-KMT). (Interestingly, support for Chen Shui-bian is at 23% in this TVBS poll, while Ma is as low as 28% approval in some polls). The public seems to feel that so long as the legislator comes to help them out with traffic accidents and shows up for their weddings and funerals, then their legislator's performance in office is of no consequence.

In Miaoli "independent" candidate Kang Shih-ju beat the wife of convicted vote-buyer Lee E-tin in the local by-election, The Taipei Times writes:
Kang, chief of Zhunan Township (竹南), gave up his KMT membership to run in the by-election. He declared victory yesterday after winning 41,688 votes to Chen’s 40,099 votes.

Lee’s election to the legislature was annulled in December after he was found guilty of vote-buying.

After yesterday’s results were in, Kang said at his campaign headquarters that the public had voted for an end to corruption. He vowed to combat corruption and work for the interests of Miaoli residents.

“The result of the by-election show that voters in Miaoli County renounce corruption and support me for my integrity and long-term efforts to develop Miaoli County,” Kang said.

Chen, accompanied by Lee, conceded defeat shortly afterward at her campaign headquarters. Chen and Lee blamed her defeat on the low turnout rate. They said they would not seek a recount.

Kang failed to win the KMT’s nomination for the legislative election last year and left the party after it again passed him over for the by-election, choosing Chen instead.
Lee had been convicted of vote buying using temples back in December...
The court verdict said Lee made 16 visits to temples in Yuanli and Jhunan — two of the eight townships in one of Miaoli County’s two electoral districts — between June and October last year.

During that time he made donations and solicited support via his campaign aides for his election bid. Because Lee had not been previously known to make donations to temples and had only done so during the election campaign, the court ruled they were designed to improperly influence voter behavior.
I didn't hear that any of the temples were busted for participating in the vote buying scheme. Shouldn't some temple association leaders be behind bars? Kang is a good example of the way former KMTers simply turn "independent" if not permitted to run by the party electoral processes, something the KMT relaxed its exclusion clause for criminal behavior to prevent.

Observe that despite the corruption, and the attempt to game the system by Lee running his wife for the office, a common practice of corrupt local politicians (example), they only lost the election by a whisker. As I wrote three years ago:
Yet, in fair elections, the public consistently returns corrupt politicians to office. Stop me before I kill again! seems to be the message voters are sending.
The good news about Kang's victory is that he has promised to caucus with the DPP, and received DPP support in the election.

Some interesting, and in its way, portentous, news from the US where Taiwan Caucus Co-Chair and ardent Taiwan supporter Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican, has decided to step down from that position.
Rohrabacher said in the interview that his resignation was primarily the result of a growing gap in goals between him and Taiwan’s government.

Rohrabacher said that he firmly believed in opposing autocracy, but if Taiwanese voters via a democratic election have chosen to cooperate with China, then his participation was inconsequential.
The Liberty Times report is here.

Echo Taiwan points to an interesting report from the Chunghua Institute of Economic Research (CIER), not a notably pan-Green organization, that says of the proposal to build a bridge between China and Kinmen:
Earlier this month, CIER announces the evaluation report. It says that there might be economic benefits, but due to the fact that Xiamen is a much more developed area than Kinmen is, a bridge will speed up the outflow of Kinmen resources and eventually bring deterioration to Kinmen in the long run.

Therefore the evaluation report suggests that Ma government to postpone such a plan (中經院報告 建議金廈大橋緩建, Liberty Times, Mar 3rd, 2009)

According the the above news piece, the evaluation is entirely based on the economy interests. Neither the safety of Kinmen against possible invasion nor the national security of Taiwan is evaluated.
What? The same logic applies to Taiwan -- closer links with China simply mean that more resources will flow outward from Taiwan to China. As we have seen.....

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

I'd be worried if an economic think tank did an evaluation based on military strategy. They wouldn't be qualified to do that.

Anonymous said...

"What? The same logic applies to Taiwan -- closer links with China simply mean that more resources will flow outward from Taiwan to China. As we have seen....."

This all adds up to Ma Ying-jiu's self-fulfilling prophecy that Taiwan will be economically unable to stand alone and will need to integrate with China to survive.

Dixteel said...

I think Rohrabacher did the right thing. I think he is using his action to serve as a warning to all Taiwanese: your vote counts and you can vote away all your allies.

Mioli election is actually a small improvement IMO. KMT actually has only half of vote and lost this time. But to many...only lost by 1000 votes after all these craps Mioli has to take from KMT? And the guy is ex-KMT! Yea, sounds like it's not a great improvement of the situation. But I guess it's a "half full or half empty" thing.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, some of the vote buying prosecution has been way too overzealous. They hit you for treating people to dinner and anything over the very low gift limit.

But straight up give people cash vote buying still abounds in certain areas, yet they never seem to be able to catch that.

If the KMT were serious about making Taiwan better, they'd try to figure out how to best structure the law to catch the real vote buying, and have campaign finance reform and transparency instituted. But that would be too much work when they can just sit on their asses and continue doing what they've been doing.

*I haven't looked into this particular case. The convicted legislator may be a scumbag in many other ways, and this was just the one charge that prosecutors could get to stick. But I think what I said still applies to the big picture.

Thomas said...

That survey you cite is interesting for another reason. More respondents oppose the signing of a CECA than support it, and 40 percent of those who do support it don't really know what it is.

Now what was that that the Ma administration said about consulting the public?

Marc said...

I was reminded of this quote by the brilliant (sic) Dan Qualyle which may aptly describe the current situation:

“I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy-but that could change.”

Anonymous said...

Dana Rohrabacher's action is not surprising. Most of Taiwan's "friends" in the US Congress are anti-China demogogues whose only interest in Taiwan is its use in containing China. If they believe Tawian cannot serve that purpose, they will not hesitate to throw Taiwan under the bus. Remember, these American "friends" loved the KMT when the KMT was rabidly anti-Communist.

Anonymous said...

Anyone that has been to Kinmen knows that there is not much of anything that needs to get to the mainland so urgently that a bridge is required rather than a short ferry ride. It seems pretty obvious that a bridge would be purely symbolic. And yet wasn't it the DPP that were criticized so bitterly for pursuing 'ideological' goals??