Taiwan Municipal Elections: Punching the Cotton

The following is an extractive account of an article which appeared in Singapore’s United Morning Post (联合早报) on Friday, asking why the outcome of Saturday’s Municipal Elections in Taiwan appears to be rather  unpredictable, despite national economic data that – one might believe – should put local candidates of president Ma Ying-jeou‘s KMT in a very favorable position.

Although the municipal elections are naturally local elections,  to be held in five municipalities – Taipei City, Xinbei City, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung -, they may provide clues for president Ma’s chances to win a second term in presidential elections in 2012 (or even just to get nominated by his party again). The electorate in the five cities make up almost 65 percent of Taiwan’s total population of 23 million.

Many of Morning News’ articles don’t seem to last on the internet. If you want to read the original article in Chinese and can’t get there through this link, drop me a line – duibudui@hotmail.de -, and I’ll mail it to you.

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Shen Zewei (沈泽玮), in an article for Singapore’s Morning Post, addresses a question about Taiwan’s municipal elections (to be conducted on Saturday, November 27) which probably preoccupies China’s leadership, too: Why don’t GDP growth by 9.98 per cent and an unemployment rate less than five per cent make the outcome of the elections a predictable success for Taiwan’s ruling KMT government?

Shen quotes Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), professor at the National Chengchi University as saying that a key to explaining the KMT’s current struggling is that the economic data and economic agreements the government keeps publishing hadn’t been converted into the economic benefit of the public (所有政府亮出的经济数据和经济协议都无法转换成民众感受到的经济效益). For one, much of the recent surge in GDP was due to the fact that growth had been so low one year earlier (thus making the discrepancy between growth last and this year so big), and more importantly, there was resentment at worsening disparities in income distribution. The income of the younger workforce was stagnating. What contributed to the current low unemployment rate were government programs for helping people finding employment – but only for temporary jobs. The oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had kept avoiding the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and cross-strait relations as topics during the municipal elections campaigns, and the KMT’s fists therefore only found cotton to punch into (民进党在这次选举中采取了回避ECFA和两岸议题的战略,固然让国民党的拳头都打到棉花上).

More critically however, ECFA was really only a framework so far, without substantial content – it would only become a plus for the KMT if it added more content, which in turn meant another round of complicated negotiations between Taipei and Beijing. To obtain concessions from Beijing, the Ma government would have to open up Taiwan’s markets  further to China, which would lead to dissatisfaction among the Taiwanese. Disappointment among many pan-blue supporters was, in addition, leading to problems in mobilizing them to vote.

Last but not least, Shih Chih-yu (石之瑜), a professor with the National Taiwan University’s Department of Political Science, is quoted as pointing out that the oppositional DPP was now seen as the party that would rather maintain the status quo, while the KMT was more likely to change the Taiwan’s status [into the direction of “uniting with China”, rather than towards independence, of course – JR]. Voters who preferred the status quo would rather support the DPP now. The fact that economic concessions hadn’t improved Taiwanese feelings toward mainland China (大陆) but rather made them fear that the KMT was tilting towards Beijing, was certainly worth Beijing’s attention. And Tung Chen-yuan [see second paragraph] points to a growing sense of a Taiwanese identity, and growing public support for maintaining the status quo in relations with China. The Ma government therefore needed to amend or complete its strategy concerning contacts with Beijing.

No matter what the results of the elections on Saturday were going to be, the mere fact that the KMT candidates had to struggle in their campaigns were “no small warning” to the party.

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Related
Taiwan News Roundup: “In just Three Seconds”, October 8, 2010
Taiwan, ECFA, and the Traitorama, June 29, 2010

7 Responses to “Taiwan Municipal Elections: Punching the Cotton”

  1. News just came through: KMT ex-Vice President Lien Chen’s son was shot while he was attending an election campaign in support of a KMT candidate for this weekend’s Mayors election. Shocking. http://is.gd/hOZ3b

    Like

  2. Reportedly shot in the head. That sounds like a condition between life or death. Let’s hope that these elections won’t cost Mr Lien junior’s life, and that he can make a full recovery.
    Thank you for the info, C.A.

    Like

  3. The answer is simple: the gains are only going to the upper fraction of wealth holders. Most people are experiencing stagnant incomes, inflation, and poor future job prospects. ECFA has never gained a majority in any credible poll, because most people either see no benefit for themselves or see it as a sell out (as I do). The main beneficiaries are various forms of organized crime — big financial houses, large publicly subsidized corporations, and powerful local gangsters. Everyone else is getting screwed.

    Hope this helps.

    Michael Turton

    Like

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