'September Strife' reveals politicians' incompetence
The China Post news staffIn Taiwanese politics, one thing is sure: when in trouble, count on your rival.
October 18, 2013, 9:14 pm TWN
The tactless President Ma Ying-jeou created an unnecessary social upheaval after he publicly condemned Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng of influence-peddling based on inconclusive evidence untried in a court of law and collected via dubious means.
As if dismal approval ratings, two major protests against his government and a stagnant economy were not troublesome enough, the president plunged himself, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the nation into one of the biggest crises in a decade. Several high-profile members of his own party publicly criticized his handling of the situation, including a top contender in the Taipei mayoral election. There were rumors of a “coup” against Ma, who doubles as the KMT chairman, in the lead-up to the KMT National Congress slated for the end of last month (now postponed and relocated).
Luckily for the president and the ruling party, they can always depend on the opposition.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) duly came to the rescue, in shining armor no less, by engineering the worst-timed no-confidence vote against the Cabinet possible, given the circumstances.
The influence-peddling allegations against Wang could have caused a major embarrassment for the DPP — Wang was allegedly pulling strings to settle a court case for the DPP's caucus whip Ker Chien-ming. Thanks to Ma's blunder, the DPP did not only largely escape criticisms of sleaziness and hypocrisy, they stood to gain as the KMT fell into disarray. DPP lawmakers had front row seats to the farce of Premier Jiang Yi-huah making his policy report to a Legislative Yuan speaker he had earlier all but consigned to history.
All the DPP had to do was nothing and they could stand to gain in upcoming elections. If the party felt compelled to do something, it could either be opportunistic and launch an early attack while the KMT was in chaos, or be truly ambitious by addressing the allegations against Ker and gain the moral high ground against a KMT engaged in ugly infighting.
Instead, the party took the moral low ground by siding with Wang simply because he became Ma's public enemy. Then it helped show the high ground to the KMT by blocking Jiang's report for nearly a month and thereby putting the Legislature into gridlock. Finally, it launched a no-confidence vote so late, its only achievement was to unite the ruling party.
After the no-confidence vote failed (just as almost everybody had predicted), the DPP itself was in disarray. Many DPP lawmakers were dumbfounded when a post-vote meeting turned into a lecture about wiretapping procedures instead of a review of the failed vote. The meeting became all about Ker and his purported role as a wiretapping victim.
Younger DPP members could not have it that way. They questioned the party elites' (particularly Ker's) judgment over the timing of the vote and their autocratic decision-making style. “It seems that everything was done on your orders,” Legislator Chiu Yi-ying shouted at Ker during the meeting.
With one bad call, the opposition party managed to hand a rope to the KMT, put itself into chaos and Ker back into the center of criticism, all while providing a perfect excuse to put Jiang back on the legislative rostrum.
The DPP has shot itself in the foot, but it will still have the upper hand in the upcoming elections. But that's only because the KMT has made much a bigger mess of itself.
The true losers in all this are of course the people. Politicians can rely on each others' mistakes, but the people can't. If this “September Strife” has made any contribution to society, it has been to break the illusion that politicians are smart (albeit selfish) people. When politicians are bad even in political schemes, then they are really bad at what they do. The true problem for Taiwan is not that politicians are self-serving, but that they are truly incompetent.