Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Commentary on the Current Direction

Taiwan News and the China Times put out editorials recently that looked at the direction of things -- President Ma's takeover as Chairman of the KMT, and the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of Judge Tsai's notorious detention of Chen Shui-bian. First the China Times, accessed on the Klingon News Network. The piece is a condemnation of Ma's inept, distant management style. And from a solidly pro-KMT paper (which, as a smart friend of mine observed, has recast itself as the loyal opposition since Ma came to power). The whole thing should be read, but this especially:
....Today Ma Ying-jeou is again in charge of the party. He has proudly waved the party flag on behalf of candidates for the year-end elections. When Ma Ying-jeou declared his commitment to clean government and political reform, people were inspired. Political momentum accumulated. But he has now declared his intention to enforce strict party discipline. He has promised that he will strictly punish those who have disobeyed the party decision and run for public offices. But they doubt Ma will hold up if they give him the cold-shoulder treatment. Ma Ying-jeou has been in charge of the affairs of state for a year and a half. He is being pulled in several directions at the same time. He has not demonstrated sufficient courage and determination. As a result, his leadership has been subjected to constant challenges. Candidates for City Mayor and County Executive offices have thrown their hats in the ring without consulting him. Even incumbents who were elected on the basis of Ma's endorsement are ignoring the party leadership, and bent on rebellion. During the party chairmanship election, the turnout in many constituencies was low. The percentage of invalid ballots was high. Quite a few former "Team Ma" legislators with reputations for integrity and many outspoken and forceful County Executives and City Mayors have all gradually withdrawn their candidacies for membership in the KMT Central Standing Committee. When asked why, they replied without enthusiasm, and sighed, "Let him (Ma) find out what it's like to have a Central Standing Committee not consisting of his own people!"

In the year and a half since Ma Ying-jeou became President, this group of party officials, who once stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the trenches, have met with and talked with him less than a handful of times, perhaps no more than three. Even party members close to Ma are saying such things. One can imagine what people not so close to Ma are saying. They simply cannot find any way to interact with the party chairman. People everywhere are asking, "Is he (Ma) actually willing to listen to other people's advice?" Actually some people really don't care whether Chairman Ma is willing to listen to other people's advice. They care only about their status as Central Standing Committee members, whether that status will profit their business. More importantly, the Central Standing Committee lacks political appointees, local elected leaders, and eloquent legislators. How much assistance can such an institution provide the party chairman in efficient governance? Ma Ying-jeou wants to transform the party into an election machine. He wants to turn it into a platform for communication and policy coordination. Based on the current structure of the Central Standing Committee, one can expect a weakening of the party's policy-making functions. Whether it will be of any help during election campaigns is hard to say. Ma Ying-jeou will inevitably encounter trouble implementing his personal ideals.

Ma Ying-jeou sees the problem. He has called upon the KMT not to buy votes during election campaigns, not to engage in corruption while in office, and not to abuse its political power. In fact, this is a problem common to both Blue Camp and Green Camp parties. But seeing the problem and talking about the problem is not enough. Now that the President is also the party chairman, he must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
As I ride around Taiwan and look at posters of political candidates, now blossoming on every corner, I never see Ma Ying-jeou with the candidate. Pictures with multiple KMTers typically show an influential local politician in concert with the local candidate, as if the national HQ does not exist. Fascinating.

Taiwan News excoriated the Supreme Court on its ruling, accusing it of cowardice:
After nine months of deliberation and with four judges issuing dissenting opinions, the council avoided a judgement on the particulars of the switch in judges or the Chen's detention in a decision reflected more the proverbial habits of ostriches than the democratic legal judicial principles.

For example, regarding the switch in judges in the Chen state affairs funds and other cases, the Grand Justices upheld the principle of determination of judges through legally-defined processes and stated that the Taipei District Court's regulations on the assignment of judges was drafted under the authorization of its court organic law and the decision of its council of presiding judges.

The interpretation also affirmed the required method of selection through "abstract" methods, such as random selection by lot, as both rational and necessary and therefore ruled that the regulated procedures were "constitutional" and "protected judicial human rights."

However, the interpretation appeared to notice only the written regulations in the "abstract" and turned a blind eye to the very "concrete" trampling of these rules by the Taipei District Court itself.

The interpretation was silent on the fact that the decision to replace Chou, who had been selected by lot, with Tsai was made by only five of the 18 Taipei District Court presiding judges and transgressed the regulations's principles of not reassigning a specialised case to a general judge or combining a big case into a small case.

The Grand Justices thereby ignored the "concrete" reality that the fact that the rule book was not followed in Chen's case led to cries of over "administrative interference."
See no evil, hear no evil.... Sad.
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!


Marc said...

My first reaction to the CP editorial is that it reminds me about another profoundly unpopular president named Dubya who squandered all his soft power, too. I heard and read that Bush's 'my way or the highway' style eventually alienated almost everyone around him to the point that he was laregely impotent in his final two years.

Anonymous said...

It seems that no one dares sign the guarantor form that CSB will not flee the island.

Many were willing only to provide even billions of bail money but
sign as guarantor?

No way seems to be the answa!

David said...

I think this Taipei Times cartoon expresses some of Ma's problems well.

Anonymous said...

David: Why would you attribute Ma's problems to some kind of structural problem, when it's clear that 1) Ma is political and administratively incompetent 2) He has no problem with being a party tool.

Ma has shown himself time and time again, whether through his various mishaps as Taipei mayor or as party chairman that he is willing to avoid all the necessary checks and balances that would prevent him from shooting himself in the foot--Maokong Gondola avoided any environmental assessment and now is causing mudslides plus the repair efforts have turned the slope into a giant slab of concerete, but the water still has no where to go.

His latest controversy, these past couple of days is the announcement then denial of an announcement of an energy/carbon tax. It's not a bad idea, but we're in a recession and they didn't rally the political supporters of something like this whether the NGOs or the legislators to start DRAFTING legislation and they didn't announce WHY or HOW they are going to deflect the pain for the poor or everywhere except Taipei, which has billions of dollars in subway and bus infrastructure where it's actually feasible to avoid having to pay any gasoline tax. Or why did the finance ministry and economics ministry simultaneously announce energy tax revenue off by times?!

Isn't that the problem with ECFA at the core? A trade with deal with China isn't so bad per se, but it is if you ignore all the caveats like 1) China is using it as a political tool 2) Blue collars are going to lose their jobs (That's the point!) and they need to be retrained and subsidized somehow...

As KMT party chairman the last time around, Ma sold off assets, converting them to cash which is much more difficult to recover than actual property or companies, all the while trying to sell himself as "cleaning up" the party assets. That's called money laundering buddy, and the KMT still has the assets, only as cash! Anyways, the point is Ma is a thug, and this has nothing to do with some inherent contradiction between his role as party chairman and president.

Anyways, there are fundamental problems with the administration and execution of the Ma government, to say nothing with the policies. The government is still way too bureaucratic and contradictory, and Ma gives nearly zero political direction.