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September 24, 2017

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Voters clearly in the mood for another four blue years

President Ma Ying-jeou won a second term, as was expected. He beat his rival Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party in the presidential election by a margin of 6 percent yesterday, winning more than 688 million, or close to 52 percent, of the votes cast by the electorate. It wasn't by the margin with which he won the 2008 election, but was still an impressive showing given the not very impressive straw poll results that predicted a neck-and-neck race with James Soong, chairman of the People First Party running as an independent, posing as a spoiler. The outcome of the election, however, proved Soong wasn't the spoiler, garnering only less than 3 percent of the votes.

Ma was re-elected because the voters want the country steady as it goes. He was elected four years ago, thanks to President Chen Shui-bian, who is now doing time for corruption and graft. The voters were so fed up with Chen's corruption that they were ready to elect anybody but his anointed standard bearer, Frank Hsieh. An honest Ma has proved incorruptible and the voters turned out in droves to keep the man of probity at the helm of the state.

The Taiwan economy was in the doldrums while President Chen continued his brinksmanship hate-China policy in a vain attempt to create a Republic of Taiwan. At the beginning of his first term, Ma freed Taiwan from the self-exclusion Chen had imposed, and had an economic cooperation framework agreement, or ECFA, signed with the People's Republic of China to hedge against economic marginalization. Relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have markedly improved to help the country survive the financial tsunami of 2008 almost unscathed.

On the other hand, Ma's pragmatic diplomacy has made it possible for Taiwan to keep all its diplomatic allies and enabled its people to visit most of the countries in the world without visas. To win the privilege of such travel isn't an insignificant achievement. The countries granting the privilege consider Taiwan a free, sovereign state, albeit by far the majority of them keep no diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Tsai couldn't convince the voters that she could continue a detente between Taiwan and China without accepting what is commonly known as the "1992 Consensus," a tacit modus vivendi reached in that year under which both Taipei and Beijing are agreed that there is but "one China," the connotations of which can be orally and separately enunciated. With the modus vivendi, the two parties to the dispute can shelve that dispute to reach a compromise to solve outstanding problems involving both of them. The ECFA was concluded in line with the "1992 Consensus" to work wonders for Taiwan's economy.

In lieu of the "1992 Consensus," Tsai proposed a "Taiwan Consensus," which Douglas Paal, a former director in Taipei of the American Institute in Taiwan, described as too hollow and showed that she had no real desire to start dialogue with Beijing to keep relations across the Strait as they currently stand. That is the perception the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China have of her "Taiwan Consensus," which she promised to bring about if she were elected. More than half of the people of Taiwan agreed with them, and came out to give Ma another four years to lead Taiwan as he has since 2008.

The Democratic Progressive Party lost, but it finally left the shadow of President Chen. He got a leave from prison to attend funeral rites for his mother-in-law, where he stumped for his son running for the Legislative Yuan. Chen orated like he did in the past, but the son was defeated by a Democratic Progressive Party candidate. The disgraced former president has no more influence over the opposition party.

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