Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ma-Wang Mess Spills its guts over the political scene

Went out this week and hunted bugs with one of my students who also has a nice macro lens.

"I have no choice but to take a stand,” Ma Ying-jeou on Wang.

The news that President Ma Ying-jeou has decided to deep six the Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pyng, a longtime rival within the Party, has reverberated across Taiwan and abroad like the thunder of a landslide in an empty valley. Basically, if I had a nickel for every email in my inbox containing the keywords "Ma Ying-jeou", "Wang Jin-pyng", and "WTF", I'd be a very rich man.

First, the fracas has now reached the international media. AP recovered from its pointless bog-standard hack on Chen Shui-bian (C'mon guys, that is so 2008) the other day to produce a more in-depth view of the issues. However, Wang has not been suspended as the article says. This appears to be an error. His membership has been revoked, but he can apply to re-enter the KMT in two years. A suspension would have permitted him to retain his speakership and position in the legislature, revocation automatically removes him from the at-large legislator position and attendant power and privileges. This FocusTw piece discusses that.

Bloomberg also discusses the case and notes that the Taiwan dollar has plummeted thanks to Ma Ying-jeou's weird obsessive stalker attack on Wang Jin-pyng. Ma was so driven to get Wang that he remained in his office to follow the KMT committee vote and canceled a meeting with the President of El Salvador, sending the Veep instead (TT full report). Ma's talk as Chairman is summarized by the KMT news organ here.

Lawrence Chung at SCMP reported that Wang has 20 days to appeal the revocation. SCMP's reporting is superior and records what all of us have been saying. Highlights:
Ma, who had been calling for Wang's removal since last week, shed tears when asked by committee members why he was insisting that Wang must go.

"Though it is a painful decision, it should still be made," Ma said at a news conference.


[Wang]The veteran politician enjoys broad support in the legislature and throughout southern Taiwan.


Although he had no direct evidence of the alleged irregularity, Ma denounced Wang on Sunday for what he described as the "most serious infringement of Taiwan's judicial independence" and the "most shameful day in the development of Taiwan's democracy".

The way Ma dealt with the case without due process of law and his subjective conclusion has seen Wang gain overwhelming support and sympathy from the public and news media.
It's hard to imagine how Ma could not have known that attacking one of the most well-liked politicians on the island, whom many Taiwanese identify with, would make him even more disliked than he already is. Is the Presidential office really that out of touch? WSJ adds:
Mr. Tseng is among a list of officials that have fallen from grace since Mr. Ma was elected president in 2008. Last month, Taiwan was forced to name its second new defense minister in a week, following the resignation of newly installed ministry head Andrew Yang after he admitted plagiarism. Mr. Ma also lost his finance minister two weeks into his second term last year and watched his cabinet secretary get hauled away in handcuffs in December amid allegations of bribery.
Then there are the local news reports....

In addition to the withdrawal of referendum legislation for the 4th nuclear plant, the DPP also withdrew from the Ma-Su debate on the cross-strait service agreement.

Wang's party status: Here is what the official KMT organ said....
The fierce debate in yesterday’s CEDC meeting lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, in the end, all 11 committee members present were overwhelmingly in favor of revoking Wang’s party membership. Two other members were absent.

Yesterday afternoon, the KMT immediately sent the certification that Wang Jin-pyng had lost his party membership to the Central Election Commission, confirming that Wang had lost his qualification as a KMT legislator-at-large elected on the party list.

The KMT Party Charter stipulates, “An appeal of a party member shall not affect the validity of a decision handed down by the Central Evaluation and Discipline Committee.” In other words, if Wang wanted to keep his party membership, he had to petition a court of justice to grant a preliminary injunction before the KMT notified the Central Election Commission of its decision. However, the Central Election Commission yesterday had already received the notification from the KMT to delete Wang’s name from the list of at-large legislators elected on the party list.

Since the KMT already sent its decision to revoke Wang’s party membership before any court could hand down a ruling, Wang’s petition for a preliminary injunction had no statutory “necessity.” Therefore, his petition would be turned down by the court, and the fact that Wang would lose his seat as a legislator-at-large and consequently the Speakership is a foregone conclusion.
Wang has elected to sue but it is hard to see what the grounds would be. Although in my personal experience of institutional rule making and implementation in Taiwan, the rules are so complicated and contradictory that it is likely there will be problems with almost any serious action taken by an institution in Taiwan.

The pro-Green Taiwan Thinktank has some poll data. Ma's satisfaction hit 10%, dissatisfaction is stable at just over 70%, a number seen in many polls. Wang's scores, respectively, are 60% and 22%. Over half of those polled feel the Special Investigations Division is not impartial. TVBS poll data from earlier in the affair is here. A commentary in the Taipei Times relentlessly criticized the SID for its suspiciously political handling of the case.

Although a small number of low level local politicians resigned from the KMT in protest, Wang has called for party unity and asked members not to withdraw from the KMT. This is a very clever move -- it makes Ma look like he's the one violating party unity.

It's not difficult to see where this is heading. Ma is going to continue to take a pounding in the polls and in the hearts of the public. Disgust with him is widespread. Moreover, because Taiwanese identify with Wang as a southerner and a Taiwanese, this attack is going to have a powerful ethnic resonance -- just another victimization of the Taiwanese by the KMT. Heads will nod all over Taiwan.

Wang now faces a range of choices for revenge. With mayoral and local elections in 2014 and presidential elections in 2016, Wang could run with the DPP. Or run as an independent and hand Taipei or Taichung to the DPP. The problem is that a year from now he will be old news -- look at Soong's laughable runs for mayor in Taipei and for President. Three years from now, in the 2016 Presidential election, Wang will be ancient history, and ancient as well, at 75.

I think Wang will also see 2014 and 2016 as too far away and will now grope for ways to rejoin the legislature. I suspect that Wang will try to reconcile somehow with the KMT because (1) he is naturally conciliatory and consensus building and (2) if he wants to get back into the legislature as a legislator, he will need to run. His power base is in the south. He will have find an extraordinary way to rejoin the KMT... if he runs as an independent in a southern district he will just split the pro-Blue vote and hand the seat to the DPP. No, he needs to be in a situation where, if he runs, there is no KMT opponent. The only way to do that is to either strike a deal whereby there is no KMT opponent in his district, or run as the KMT candidate himself. In the end, all the fantasies I am hearing about Wang going down in flames splitting the Blue vote and handing some important position to the DPP are just that, fantasies. Soong's sad fate has already made it clear that the voters aren't going to go along with that....
Daily Links:
  • John Copper in The National Interest on the Obama Administration's positively changing Taiwan policy.
  • Taiwan painter keeps up movie poster tradition
  • Fourth Nuclear Plant to get fuel rods. To hell with public opinion, says the government.
  • East-West Institute with "new thinking" on arms sales. Here's the new thinking: "It proposes that the United States cap its annual arms deliveries (as opposed to announced sales) at a level that complies with the key stipulation of the U.S.-China Joint Communique of August 17, 1982, adjusted for inflation. It also calls on China to remove one of its five short-range missile brigades aimed at Taiwan and to dismantle the underlying infrastructure." Lessee -- how many thousand commentators have proposed an arms for missiles agreement or some variation thereof? 
  • Ralph Jennings in Forbes reports that Taiwan has ordered new corruption survey to reassure investors, who'd have to be pretty stupid to believe the Transparency International report in the first place.
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!


Tommy said...

I wonder more about the next presidential election. Will this tarnish Wu more? How much will it tarnish Jiang? Does this mean the Chu comes out smelling like a rose? And what of Su? I would bet support for him won't change much. But he has at least held the party banner.

Anonymous said...

What is 'deep six'? Is it an American slang? I googled, and only got something the name of a book, a movie, an album.

BTW, I got a feeling only English reading expatriates read your blog, and almost only those residing in Taiwan actually leave comments.

Anonymous said...

What is '假處分 JiaZhuFen' in Wang's situation?
How is that going to help him?
Anyway, for Ma to openly, directly, ordered the party to cast Wang out of KMT, this is a jaw-dropping move even in the eyes of Taiwanese.

philippe mckay said...

It's funny how Ma used to say the president office is not designed to deal with domestic issues, rather he is the "international" face. It is the premier's job.
But here is Ma doing the domestic stuff, and Jiang is quiet.

Another interesting thing is Lin Yi-shih (林益世) and Lai Su-ju (賴素如) haven't had their memberships revoked?!?!?!
Wang not charged and revoked. Those two are charged by the justice system and still part of the KMT?!?!?!
Makes it obvious this is about the speaker chair.

I would say, Wang may give the KMT every chance to take him back...if they don't that makes them look like the bad guy and he can go his own way...but then again this is the guy who got duped by fake holy artifacts...

Anonymous said...


Holger Nygaard said...

The gist of this is that Wang can either fade into retirement, or try to make it back into Ma's good books. Mr. Ma has a strong grip on at the least the party central committee, so that would bode ill for Ma algreeing to let Wang back in, unless Wang built up a strong coalition pressurizing Ma to take Wang back in. In that case, I would think that Ma would be topped himself.

Mike Fagan said...

Anon @ Sept 12th, 11.21pm...

"What is 'deep six'? Is it an American slang?"

It means "to kill" or get rid of someone - as in to bury somebody six feet underground so that their body is unlikely to be found.

It's somewhat similar in form to the British slang phrase "to hit for six", which is derived from cricket and refers to hitting the ball beyond the boundary line without bounce - the approximate cricketing equivalent of what in baseball is called a "home run". In this case, to hit an opponent for six would mean to defeat them in a thorough and spectacular fashion, but without carrying the gangster connotations of the U.S. phrase "to deep six someone".

This is one instance in which the British version is more civilized than the U.S. version since cricket is a civilized game whereas gangsterism is... just thugs on the street: the same barbarity of politics, but stripped of its institutional abstraction.

Anonymous said...

Ma, as president cannot deep six Wang but he can as KMT chairman. I wonder why the authorities do not focus their investigation on the lobbyinng which did take place? Will both Wang and Ker go unpunished? Lobbying is illegal!
Can't people see this?

Michael Turton said...

Theres no evidence that Wang talked to tseng. Hence it is not obvious that there was influence peddling