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Taiwan voters have other options

Taiwan voters have other options

Frankly, it is a rare day on which we find editorials or columns in the rigidly "pro-blue" United Daily News or its affiliated United Evening News to be worthy of recommendation.
However, yesterday's issue of the latter publication offered two exceptions. In addition to the important front-page report on plans by the opposition Kuomintang to mandate in a hastily convened party congress the virtual elimination of any restrictions in its charter on members indicted, or even convicted, in first or second trials on corruption from running for office, the new rules will mandate that only a conviction on a third trial on corruption will make a KMT member ineligible for nomination, a proposed change which has already sparked clamoring by recently indicted or convicted KMT mayors and lawmakers for the return of their membership rights.
This report follows on the heels of Tuesday's decision by the KMT Central Standing Committee to cut the heart out of its new "anti-corruption clause" in order to give an after-the-fact whitewashing of the violation of party discipline by former KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou, who had earlier declared his candidacy for president just hours after being indicted on corruption charges related to allegations that he had embezzled into his own personnel bank account NT$11.18 million in public "special executive allowances" during his eight years as Taipei City mayor.
In relation to this story, the UEN carried a lead editorial entitled "The KMT Has No Other Options" and its "Cold Eye" column on "Reform Fails; The KMT is Just Like That" shed considerable light on Taiwan's current political situation.
The UEN's editorial pointed out that "Ma Ying-jeou is bigger than the KMT" and claimed, not necessarily accurately, that what the governing Democratic Progressive Party "fears is not 'the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou' but a "KMT with Ma Ying-jeou at its head."
Clearly reflecting the viewpoint of apologists for the indicted KMT leader, the editorial claimed that the KMT would "have no chance to resist being further swallowed up by the DPP if Ma Ying-jeou leaves the KMT."
"The KMT has no other options," concluded the editorial. "If the KMT does not plan to hand Taiwan's future over to the DPP, the KMT must create conditions that will allow Ma Ying-jeou to remain in the KMT," namely remove all barriers to his presidential bid.
On the same second page, the UEN's "Cold Eye" column admitted that the result of the blitzkreig dumping of the party's anti-corruption clause was tantamount to the failure of Ma's faltering drive to "whitewash" the KMT and represented the "kidnapping of inner party democracy."
According to the UEN, the KMT is "returning to its old road and thus "destroying a party and saving a person," namely Ma Ying-jeou, through the revival of the KMT's "evil culture," including the revival of habits such as "stirring up myriads of people to support the emperor" and "guessing the intention of superiors and catering to the rich and powerful."
Based on the UEN's reports and analysis, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the KMT leadership has resolved to ignore the plea by KMT Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng that the KMT should have confidence to maintain a high moral standard and "not let the people feel that the KMT is a party of degenerate morality."
Different strokes
In contrast, senior DPP officials have declared that the governing party's own "anti-corruption" rules will not be revised for the benefit of any presidential or legislative candidates.
According to Article 16 of the DPP's disciplinary rules and Article 6 of its own "clean politics" charter, any DPP member indicted on corruption charges faces sanctions from the Central Evaluation and Disciplinary Commission of at least a one year suspension of party membership and will be expelled if convicted in the first trial. Such members would thereby be ineligible to register to run for any DPP nomination for public office.
Such sanctions are virtually automatic, as shown by the decision by the DPP disciplinary commission to suspend the party membership of first lady Wu Shu-chen shortly after her November 3 indictment on corruption charges over allegations of embezzling NT$14.8 million in presidential "state affairs funds."
DPP senior officials have also stated that if a DPP candidate for nomination is indicted for corruption, he or she will face suspension and will no longer be eligible for nomination, a fact that could require an embarrassing mid-course correction with considerable political cost.
Nevertheless, since the value of its political "capital" among voters rises or falls based on its perceived commitment to its founding values of democracy, integrity and commitment to Taiwan, the DPP also "is still just like that."
Apathy is not an option
Electoral democracy does not usually offer a set of unlimited or even ideal options, but provides regular opportunities for citizens to choose between choices of greater or lesser good or, all too often, only lesser evils.
The events of the past week have clarified the choice facing Taiwan's citizens in the upcoming legislative and presidential polls between a sullied but still relatively democratic and progressive and forward-looking DPP and a former ruling KMT which has dropped any pretence of trying to reform its authoritarian and corrupt "evil culture" and has now subordinated everything for the sake of "winning back" control over Taiwan and dragging us back to the past.
Faced with such an "actually existing" choice, we believe the only option which Taiwan citizens should absolutely not adopt is abstention or apathy.
Recent elections in Taiwan and elsewhere show that individual votes can make a difference in the future of a country and the world.
Taiwan's last presidential election on March 20, 2004 had a margin of just 29,518 votes with President Chen and Vice President Annette Lu winning 50.11 percent of the 12.8 million votes.
DPP Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu won election last December 9 by a margin of just 1,114 votes or 0.14 percentage points.
Refusing or failing to take part in this imperfect process and remain informed and going to the polls will not send any "message" except your agreement to allow others decide our future, probably for the worse.


Updated : 2021-09-21 10:55 GMT+08:00