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Look at you now, Ma — the tables have turned
Publication Date : 20-08-2013
As protests raged yesterday evening over the razing of four Dapu residences, with President Ma Ying-jeou away on a 12-day diplomatic tour, political commentator Nan Fang-shuo stepped up to proclaim that he does not rule out an Arab Spring-like revolution in Taiwan.
Ma's administration has deteriorated from simple incompetence into an excessively authoritative state — all amid declining approval ratings — said Nan, adding that it is too early to rule out the outbreak of civic revolution.
Citing the brewing of overwhelming public discontent over Ma's administration, Nan stated that the conditions for a presidential impeachment are forming. Ma's 13-per-cent approval rating is nearing Boris Yeltsin's 8 per cent during the height of efforts to remove him from power.
Shih Ming-te, a former opposition party chairman, on August 17 stated that it is ridiculous to consider Taiwan in a similar vein to countries under dictatorship in the Arab world such as Yemen and Egypt, noting that the last time Taiwanese protesters took to the streets to express their demands, their protest was peaceful.
Shih was the main ringleader for the 2006 “Million Voices Against Corruption, Chen Must Go Campaign” to impeach and depose the then-President Chen Shui-bian. The campaign garnered widespread participation from the public, while numerous pan-blue politicians took their turns at the head of the movement to rail against Chen's corrupt administration, including Ma, who was Taipei mayor at the time.
Speaking in front of a great host of protesters, Ma stated that in a democratic system, impeachment is a mechanism reserved for the people to check authority, and are as common as elections. The impeachment and deposing of a president should not need a guilty criminal verdict. Gross incompetence, reflected by the people's discontent and loss of respect, is enough to depose a president, said Ma during his address in 2006. In a democratic system, a leader is subject to the approval of the people and must bear responsibility for the people's discontent, continued Ma. “A man should preserve a semblance of humility to be worth the people's respect. No one will pity a man who is without morals and shirks from responsibilities,” said Ma. “Yet you (Chen) remain, with your scant 18-per-cent approval rating, asserting that you have not committed a crime,” cried Ma during his address, while appealing for cheers from the crowd.
One wonders if Ma remembers these now hauntingly poignant words, now that the tables have turned. Yet he remains, with a 13-per-cent approval rating.
With the serial outbreak of one grievance after another, from the renewed plans to staunchly carry out the completion of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant since construction was halted by Chen, the razing of four Dapu residences, the death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu, and the subsequent infighting that has transpired within military leadership, the failure of the Control Yuan to impeach Keelung Mayor Chang Tung-rung, who interfered with police matters, and the farcical proclamation by Wang Chien-shien that the investigatory agency should be dissolved, while refusing to resign from his post as president of the regulatory government branch, and concerns over the lack of disclosure and contingency plans over the inking of a cross-strait service industries trade pact, and the hastily implemented capital gains tax, which resulted in tax revenue shortfalls and wreaked havoc in the Taiwan markets, to name a few.
As a result, the people have spoken, with a confluence of ongoing protests culminating growing discontent over the current administration — invoking memories of 2006.
The 2013 protests bear a marked difference from 2006 efforts, however, as they are mostly led by civic organisations, with most political figures observed to be tastefully refraining from taking the podium.
The concept of democracy encompasses more than a constitution and elections, said Nan. Instead, the process should include the will of the people. The current state where a leader has a potential eight years in power is contrary to the founding ideals of democracy, said Nan.
Ma's return will be greatly anticipated. His first actions scrutinised. Following the violence and retrogression of democratic systems in the aftermath of the Middle East's “jasmine revolutions”, the consensus is that reforms trump revolution. However, tangible reform and change — the remedies to Taiwan's current quagmire — are unfortunately not Ma's strong suit, based on performance throughout his first term in office.