Tuesday, April 06, 2010

ECFA Referendum Debate: Ma vs Democracy

Stimulating a debate over a referendum on ECFA has been a sharp political move by the DPP. Not only is it an example of the positive pro-democracy policies of the DPP -- a rebuttal to the pan-Blue talking point that circulates as conventional wisdom in Taipei that the DPP has no policies -- but also shows how the KMT Administration is inherently anti-democracy, patronizing, and out of touch with the public. Taiwan News recounts the latest Ma error on ECFA. Ma had dismissed calls for a referendum based on the Swiss FTA into the EEC in 1972:
Asked about the relevance of this case to citizen calls for a referendum on the proposed ECFA in a news conference in Palau March 26, Ma said he was unaware of the 1972 Swiss referendum, but nevertheless dismissed it by saying that "Switzerland is a special country which has the most referendums to decide even the smallest matter."
TN observed that the Swiss example is particularly relevant because it was the "was the first vote on European integration." Ma rejected it, saying that a democratic society should rely on the representative principle. But as TN pointed out, the Swiss-EEC FTA is much like ECFA:

Moreover, the decision by the Swiss federal government to submit the FTA signed with the EEC on July 22, 1972 for a "mandatory referendum" was not a "routine" action but constituted the conscious adoption of a "higher standard" because of the potential impact of the FTA on Switzerland's economic and political and social future.

Moreover, the Dec. 3, 1972 referendum marked another break with the past as it was the first time that the Swiss government provided each and every Swiss citizen with a pamphlet outlining the issues, including the content of the FTA and detailed descriptions of arguments for and against approval, to ensure an "informed" decision by the electorate.

This confidence in the Swiss citizenry paid in a resounding 71.5 percent popular vote majority and approval by all 23 cantons.

Taiwan News goes to argue that Ma regards Taiwan's democracy as an obstacle to his plans, while even polls from pan-Blue media show that referendums are supported by the majority of the public.
Sadly, the Ma administration has chosen to treat Taiwan's democracy as an obstacle even though the requirement for ratification by national citizen referendum would turn Taiwan's democracy and openness into a major bargaining advantage as any ECFA that did not clearly and tangibly benefit the overwhelming majority of the Taiwan people would not stand chance of passage.

However, even opinion surveys by KMT - friendly agencies show that most Taiwan voters perceive the advantage of ratification by referendum, especially given the dismal lack of public confidence in the capability of the KMT - controlled Legislative Yuan to substantively review the proposed ECFA.

A survey of 1,005 Taiwan adults conducted late last month by the TVBS cable television network found that only 35 percent approved of the ECFA with the PRC, down 11 percentage points from last October, with 32 percent opposed and 33 percent undecided.

Moreover, the TVBS survey found that 54 percent agreed that there should be a referendum before the pact is signed, compared to 48 percent in October, while only 25 percent agreed with Ma's rejection of an ECFA referendum, down 11 percentage points from October with 21 percent undecided.
A televised debate on ECFA held yesterday showed some interesting results consistent with these polls:
A poll of audience members before and after the debate showed that the former DPP lawmakers did manage to change the minds of some.

The audience, made up mainly of university students, had originally polled nine to seven in support of the agreement. However, another poll half way through the debate showed support for the agreement had dropped to one in favor and 14 against, with one undecided.

After the conclusion of the debate, 10 audience members said they were now against the agreement with five in support and one undecided.
Michael Danielson, a Dane prominent in support of Taiwan, argued in an interview today in the Taipei Times that the government needs to engage the public better:
“Through a referendum, politicians will debate it and the people will be able to see what the agreement is about,” the Danish political observer said in an interview with the Taipei Times in Taipei last month. “Maybe in the end they will say, oh, this is not so bad.”

If the people rejected the proposed pact then the government would need to go back to the drawing board and negotiate a better deal, which in the long run would benefit the country, he said.
Once people see the reality of what ECFA will do to Taiwan, they turn against it. That is why the Ma Administration has not moved to educate the public, and to submit ECFA to a referendum. Instead it will go through the legislature, controlled by the KMT.

People are often down on Taiwan's democracy, but anyone who has been here for a long time has seen substantial progress on that score. Just today a Taiwan court rescinded the fine and rebuked China for censorship in the case of a man fined for protesting Beijing's treatment of the Falun Gong in front of Chinese tourists at Taipei 101. Ma should similarly let the people speak on ECFA.

ADDED: Ma's comments also appeal to the democracy=anarchy propaganda theme that is a prevalent Blue talking point.
Daily Links
  • US troops slaughter Reuters employees in Iraq, from Greenwald. Kudos to Wikileaks for obtaining this video, which the US government has been trying desperately to keep from becoming public. There must have been many similar incidents, which we will never hear about, because the dead were merely ordinary Iraqis with no international connections. As Gen. McChyrstal said of Afghanistan:

    In a stark assessment of shootings of locals by US troops at checkpoints in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in little-noticed comments last month that during his time as commander there, "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."

    The comments came during a virtual town hall with troops in Afghanistan after one asked McChrystal to comment on the "escalation of force" problem. The general responded that, in the nine months he had been in charge, none of the cases in which "we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it.

    Greenwald also discusses the pathetic mainstream media coverage of the Afghan murders and coverup. What a colossal, criminal mistake those wars are, leaking their insanity and criminality like a poison into the national political discourse and causing a generation of people across the Islamic world to hate the US. A new RAND report has more on the colossal ineptitude that is the Iraq invasion.

    As Glenn says, every American should watch the 2007 video of the Reuters employee killings. Then Americans can understand why they hate us for our freedom.
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!


Readin said...

Yet another parallel between Ma and Obama. Ma was elected to fight corruption and as switch from incompetent leadership. But he takes it as a mandate to move toward surrender to China and pushes an unpopular move in that direction over the objections of the majority of the people.

Barack was elected because he wasn't Bush. But he takes it as a mandate to move toward socialism and pushed an unpopular move in that direction over the objections of the majorit of the people.

Sadly, based on the parallels so far and Obama's recent success, it looks real bad for democracy and independence in Taiwan.

Robert R. said...

After the conclusion of the debate, 10 audience members said they were now against the agreement with five in support and one undecided.

I didn't see the debate. Where did they hold it, in a conference room? Only 16 in the audience?
While the results are nice, the sample size is laughable.

Robert R. said...

Barack was elected because he wasn't Bush. But he takes it as a mandate to move toward socialism and pushed an unpopular move in that direction over the objections of the majority of the people.

Wow, talk about bringing in a hot topic. For the sake of staying nominally on-topic, let's just say that each portion of the above statement has plenty of room for disagreement. Except, perhaps, the first sentence.

Anonymous said...

Ma was elected by a big majority on a platform that included signing a free trade agreement with China.ECFA is still supported by far more of the electorate than oppose it. Ma has a mandate to sign.

Sure you might find a majority who say they want a referendum on ECFA, but people will tell you they want a referendum on anything. Would it say be "anti-democratic" to refuse a referendum on the death penalty (I saw the "wonderful" Hsiao Bi-khim make a similar point)?

seansu said...

Wikileaks claims they have another video about to be released soon in which nearly 100 Afghanis are shown to be massacred.

This is going to turn ugly.

As for the debates, I though it was only shown on local TV.

Anonymous said...

Step 1: Learn what socialism means
Step 2: Look at most modern countries EXCEPT the US (HINT: Europe, Canada).
Step 3: Don't be stupid

best wishes,
your European friends

Anonymous said...

US Citizenship is like being a Roman. Different rules apply.

Can't really tell if those are AK-47s, telephoto lens, or just a plastic canister? No problem, shoot and ask questions later. Actually, there will be no questions and there will be no apologies.

Do that to a US citizen? We will raise hell and we'll call you a terrorist.

SY said...

Robert wrote: "Where did they hold it, in a conference room? Only 16 in the audience? While the results are nice, the sample size is laughable."

1. It was held and live broadcast via cable by CTiTV (a local cable TV station.)

2. The "polled" students were invited by the CTiTV to act as a kind of "live jury". ("Audience" was a misnomer.) See the jury podium set-up at 1:22 of this YouTube video.

3. The students were from the NTU, The Soochow Univ and Shih Hsin Univ.

4. I may have missed it but the articles I have seen in China Times all have avoided mentioning the live student jury and their reaction.

Anonymous said...

ECFA may be bad, but referendums are a terrible way to do anything. For proof, see "Readin"'s comment. (Unless Readin was being sarcastic?)