Archive for January 8th, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Presidential Elections 2012: there are Rules

Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Taiwan’s first democratically-elected president from 1996 to 1999, and KMT-appointed president from 1988 to 1996, recently had a discussion with Japanese professor Nakajima Mineo of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (and/or Akita International University). Japan’s news magazine WiLL drew on, or published what was said to have been their converstation, in its latest publication, on Thursday.

Lee will be 87 on January 15, and Nakajima Mineo was born in 1933. They are no strangers to each other – they wrote a book on democracy and Asian values together, “The Wisdom of Asia” (亞洲的智略), published in 2000. With that book, Lee, for the first time, stated that the Republic of China on Taiwan had left the era of the two Chiangs (Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo), and had transformed itself into the concept of a Second Republic (蛻變為「第二共和」的構想)*). Both revisions of the RoC constitutions since 1991, and changes in the structure of government, had constituted the Second Republic.

Lee is an active agent of his presidential legacy, an important policy of which had been to widen Taiwan’s international leeway, and to define Taiwan-Chinese relations as state-to-state relations. He is frequently in the news – shortly before the municipal elections of November last year, he advised the electorate to use the elections as an opportunity to “abandon [incumbent president] Ma” and to thus “protect Taiwan” (棄馬保台, qì Mǎ bǎo Tái), a message which conflicted to quite a degree with opposition DPP leaders’ approach which was focused on local, i. e. municipal, rather than foreign issues, or on Taiwan identity matters.

DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) reaffirmed this approach as she spoke to supporters of her candicacy for Xinbei mayorship, after losing the campaign to KMT candidate Eric Chu.

That’s what makes the alleged content of Lee’s discussion with Prof. Mineo a sensitive issue. According to the WiLL publication, Lee suggested that while Tsai was outstanding (民進黨主席蔡英文很優秀), it was yet too early for her to become  president (但要當總統的話,時機尚早), and that a third force for emphasizing Taiwaneseness should draw Taiwan-conscious forces both from the DPP and the KMT  to provide a Taiwan- rather than China-focused new president with a majority of his or her own in parliament (Legislative Yuan).

Lee denied this and other quotes on Friday, in a statement on his facebook page. If his facebook statement is believed or not may depend on how people view him. The elder statesman may have come across as somewhat unstatesmanlike, i. e. rather spiteful, in recent years.

Either way, according to Lee’s facebook statement as quoted by the Taipei Times, he believed that

it did not matter how the presidential and vice presidential candidates are chosen or whether political parties cooperate in the presidential election next year.  “For the battle in 2012, pro–localization forces should unite and take over power with an absolute majority so we can continue reform, promote Taiwan consciousness and pursue Taiwan’s normalization.”

This advice carries some weight. The results of the municipal elections last November, where almost 65 per cent of Taiwan’s population casted their vote (or were eligible – I didn’t find a clear definition in last year’s coverage), don’t suggest that either of the main political parties – the incumbent KMT and the oppositional DPP – will “crush” the other in elections any time, soon. A president will be elected in 2012, but if he or she will have a majority in parliament is a different question. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of the DPP never had a majority in the Legislative Yuan, which may explain some of the shortcomings of his presidency.

Lee’s facebook statement – in different words and much more vaguely than in the WiLL quotes – would still mirror a concern WiLL quoted him with – that Tsai might risk repeating the mistakes of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and would be unable to carry out policies in a minority government if she ran for president next year.

That said, the DPP would still be much more likely to draw an absolute parliamentary majority by itself, than a “third force” would be.

It’s hard to tell how many personal and political animosities may play a role here  – either way, DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) reportedly thanked Lee for giving his views, but only after saying that Cheng said that the DPP would follow its schedule to choose the most electable Presidential candidate.


*), on January 8, 2011


Lee’s Second Republic, Chen’s Second Republic, China Post, Oct 18, 2006

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