Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Yu: crowing too soon?

DPP Chairman Yu Shi-kun giving vent to strong feelings of triumph in regard to the giant egg now resting on KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's face after the December mayoral elections. Quoth Yu:

The DPP chairman released a satiric "report card" of Ma's eight years as Taipei City mayor, which gave the KMT chairman zeros in urban construction, concern for the land, river conservation, team leadership and environmental policy and "100" grades in "the art of lying," "evading responsibility," media relations, performing shows and "jogging and swimming."

The DPP chairman especially criticized the KMT chairman for "deceiving society" by failing to fulfill promises to properly handle the problem of the KMT's massive holdings of "ill-gotten" party assets and repeated commitments to support the procurement of advanced defensive weapon systems for Taiwan's national defense as well as for "contradictory" statements regarding the former mayor's use of special executive allowances.

All this is probably true enough, as even the Blue papers have complained from time to time about Ma's apparent lack of accomplishments. But let's be fair -- the city's wireless program is a feather in the cap, and Ma inherited a city that had already made dramatic progress under Chen. Naturally he could hardly expect to make more huge policy changes.

Interestingly, Yu apparently revealed the results of DPP internal polling. According to local lore, the KMT and DPP internal polls are said to be fairly reliable:

The DPP chairman stated that in poll conducted at the end of March, Ma had a satisfaction rating of 75 percent against 15 percent dissatisfied, but that his approval rating had fallen to 55 percent in June, 46 percent in July and to 38 percent in November, while the KMT chairman's dissatisfaction rating had risen to 35 percent in June, 45 percent in July and 52 percent at the end of November.

Several polls have been showing falling long-term popularity for Ma. He was always vulnerable -- indeed, the way that recent events have highlighted his many failings would almost appear to the conspiratorially-minded to have been arranged. Consider that the first thing Eric Chen, the prosecutor in the Chen Shui-bian scandal, did after returning indictments against Chen's wife Wu Shu-jen was to turn the spotlight on Ma Ying-jeou. And Eric Chen is apparently a good friend of Lee Teng-hui.

But fortunately I am not conspiratorially minded.

The report went on to say:

Moreover, Yu said the DPP had improved its party organization by abolishing factions, dealing with the chronic problem of "proxy members" and promoting "joint decision-making between the party and government."

"Proxy members" are local political operatives retained by certain party members to handle distasteful tasks like buying votes (see below). The article also noted that DPP Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍)said the DPP would reduce its headquarters staff by about 20 percent to ease financial pressures and to restructure the party for future campaigns. Lin failed to defeat Jason Hu in the last election for mayor of Taichung and appears to be one of the younger talents currently being cultivated by the DPP.

I've always regarded triumphalism like Yu displays here to be unseemly, the kind of hubris that the gods single out for just punishment. It is certainly true that Ma is vulnerable could probably be beaten by any of several DPP heavyweights, but it doesn't follow that the DPP will deliver in '08. There's many a slip twixt cup and lip, as the saying goes. Ma got out the vote in Kaohsiung this year, adding 17,000 to the 2002 KMT vote total there. While he didn't make the 1998 peak, he showed that he can effectively mobilize Blue voters. And on an island dominated by identity politics, mobilizing one's base is one of the keys to victory. Crow after you've won in '08, Chairman Yu.


Anonymous said...

There is a good article in today's Taipei Times assessing Ma's term as Mayor.

My personal view of Ma as Mayor is that he lacked vision. It is not that he necessarily did a terrible job, it is just that he could have done so much more.

I think the failed Jiancheng Circle stands as a monument to the lack of understanding of what is valuable and interesting in Taipei. Flashy, modern concrete and glass constructions do not make a great city. The area around Taipei 101 also disappoints me. It is so boring and sterile.

Anonymous said...

I've always regarded triumphalism like Yu displays here to be unseemly, the kind of hubris that the gods single out for just punishment. It is certainly true that Ma is vulnerable could probably be beaten by any of several DPP heavyweights, but it doesn't follow that the DPP will deliver in '08.

I think you have to understand the audience that Yu intended his remarks for. Those remarks are designed to poke a hole in the cloak of invulnerability that's always surrounded Ma. By showing that he can lose and that he can stumble, Yu is tarnishing the luster of the golden boy.

The plan-Blue media have built Ma into a dazzling figure with an air and an aura about him. Yet Ma is largely untested. It's easy to win races when there is a strong tailwind to help you, but coming up from behind requires a much different type of grit and perseverence. The Tangwai leaders are used to running in the face of adversity, but Ma is not. Throughout most of his life, he's always played it safe, and had things handed out for him. Yu is pointing out that things are different now.

Though I would agree the crowing and braying that Yu exhibits is unseemly for a western audience used to polite and civil discourse, Yu is preaching to his Taiwanese choir, demonstrating a strong and confident position---and perhaps tossing his hat into the ring as an up-and-comer for 2008.

Michael Turton said...


Anonymous said...

Air pollution is high in Taipei and the sidewalks are shit. How about make some one way streets and widen sidewalks (and make them flat)? Some pedestrian only streets?

Taipei would have the shit sued out of itself under the American with Disabilities Act and many others.

There are also no significant projects, which I would argue for a city that aspires to be internationally competitive, is of ultra-significance. Playing it safe isn't good enough. Check out some of the stuff Bloomberg's been doing with New York (and New York's already on top).