After Taiwan's Elections

by on Friday, 28 March 2008 Comments
Ma Ying-jeou has received a strong mandate. On May 20, when he officially becomes Taiwan’s President, he will be able to rely on the tow-third and plus KMT majority at the Legislative Yuan and the support of a vast majority of local governments. What is his strength might also become his weakness.

Taiwan’s citizens have elected him for giving a new impulse to economic and social policies. They hope that better relationships with the Mainland will translate into economic benefits. At the same time, their vote can in no way be understood as a wish to alienate the political status-quo or a return to old-style KMT policies. The centrist image on which Ma Ying-jeou has been elected will have to pass the test of time and events, sometimes against the party on which he relies. This will prove to be a perilous exercise in equilibrium.

Ma Ying-jeou will have to come up with a government of young, moderate and capable people, signaling the entry into a new era. The government will have to be a factor of reconciliation, building on some of the cultural policies conducted by the former coalition while going beyond ethnic rivalries and gathering energies around a renewed economic and social model.

Such model cannot be solely directed towards economic growth. It has to include the building-up of real local democracy (the weak point in Taiwan’s present political system), sustainability and social cohesiveness. The campaign has been poor in content on these issues, and it is to be hoped that they will not be overlooked.

In other words, Ma Ying-jeou’s challenges go beyond the way he will deal with China. His capacity to renew and consolidate Taiwan’s self perception of its society, culture and cohesion might be the real test of its leadership ability.

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June LEE (李禮君)

Former Managing Editor of Renlai Monthly (2004-2009). Board member of the Taipei Ricci Institute.

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