Election results reflect deep concerns of Taiwan’s citizens: Bruce Jacobs

The following commentary by Bruce Jacobs, Emeritus Professor of Asian Languages and Studies at Monash University, was originally published on The Conversation.

Voters assert themselves as Taiwanese in a warning to KMT

By Bruce Jacobs, Monash University

Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won an unprecedented landslide victory in the country’s local elections. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) won only one of Taiwan’s six largest “special municipalities” in voting on Saturday and this by a very narrow margin. Elsewhere, the DPP won unexpected victories in many counties and municipalities.

The best explanations for this unexpected DPP victory relate to the losing party. Like Australians, Taiwanese want their ruling parties to be able to govern themselves. The divisions between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have resonances in the KMT between Taiwan’s president (and KMT party chairman) Ma Ying-jeou, former vice-president and premier Lien Chan and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who have been quite open in their three-way mutual detestation.

In addition, parties that cannot govern themselves usually perform badly in policy and administrative terms. Recently, major food companies in Taiwan have used industrial oil rather than food oil in the preparation of foods. This has raised huge questions over the government’s ability to provide safe food for its citizens.

Ma’s government, which should be aligning with South Korea as a fellow Asian democratic state, became hysterical about the “certain” damage to the Taiwan economy when the South Koreans signed a free trade agreement with China. It turned out that the Taiwan government had not seen the text of the FTA nor had it done any research. Continue reading

The battle for Taichung on social media

screenshot of Lin Chia-lun's Facebook page

Taichung is a key battleground in Taiwan’s local elections. Overall victory or defeat in the elections is likely to be judged on who wins the mayoral race in Taichung. Both major parties have a realistic chance of winning what is likely to be a close contest. Hence, they will be investing a great deal in their campaigns.

The closeness of the contest in Taichung makes it an ideal site for analysing and comparing the campaign strategies of the two major parties. In this post I have done some basic analysis of how the two mayoral candidates are using social media to get their message out to voters.

The battle for Taichung sees incumbent mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) competing against Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). These two candidates also contested the election for Taichung Mayor in 2005 with Hu the victor on that occasion.

Jason Hu has been Mayor of Taichung for thirteen years now, nine as Mayor of Taichung City and the past four as the Mayor of Taichung Municipality. Hu is also a Vice-Chairman of the KMT and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lin Chia-lung was the Legislator for Taichung No. 6 District until he resigned shortly before the election. He has previously served as  Director of the Government Information Office and Secretary-General of the DPP. Continue reading

DFAT documents on human rights in Taiwan

Last year I submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) via the website Right to Know. The purpose of the request was to find out about Australian government’s attitude toward and monitoring of human rights issues in Taiwan. In particular the request focused on information regarding the detention and trial of former president Chen Shui-bian and other officials from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on corruption related charges.

After several months the documents have been released by DFAT. There were a total of 24 cables from the Australian Office Taipei in the release. They cover the period from May 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou took office, to January this year.

The cables reveal several matters which were of particular interest to Australia. The first of these was the PNG bribery scandal. This involved a payment of US $30 million dollars to two middlemen in Singapore in an attempt to gain “diplomatic recognition” from PNG. The scandal resulted in then Vice-Premier Chiou I-jen and Minister for Foreign Affairs James Huang resigning in May 2008, shortly before President Chen Shui-bian’s term expired.

The cable dated 7 May 2008 notes that, “the most likely explanation for the whole affair would seem to be that [Huang and Chiou] were taken in by two conmen.” This analysis has proved correct although it was not until June 2012 that Chiou was found not guilty in the High Court. Continue reading

Who will be Tsai’s running mate?

A couple of months ago I wrote about the possible vice presidential candidates for both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). I correctly predicted that Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) would be the candidate for the KMT. However, the DPP is yet to select their candidate and there are a number of possible candidates who didn’t even appear on my original list.

It was expected that the DPP’s presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would announce her running mate this weekend. However, a report from CNA today suggests that Tsai may delay the announcement until October. Tsai is certainly keeping everyone guessing about who she will choose.

While a number of names have been mentioned there seems to be no certainty about who Tsai will pick. Some potential candidates who have been the subject of media speculation are listed below. Continue reading

Tsai Ing-wen campaigns in Taichung

Su Jia-chyuan in the crowd

Last night I attended a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) campaign rally in Taichung. The rally for legislative candidate Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was held in a primary school hall in the West District of Taichung.

Directing the crowd

As people entered the gates there were tables for collecting donations and registering support for the campaigns. Flags were also handed out and people holding minor positions in the party were introduced by name as they entered the hall. Continue reading

Time to speak out against injustice

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
— Elie Wiesel

Taiwan’s courts have handed down not guilty verdicts in two notable cases this week. Former president Chen Shui-bian was found not guilty in the Supreme Court in the special diplomatic funds case. The verdict was only briefly reported by most media, however its significance should not be ignored.

The verdict further vindicates A-bian’s claims that he is innocent and a victim of political persecution. In November last year A-bian and his co-defendants were all found not guilty in the financial mergers case. However, just one week later the Supreme Court ruled that A-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen were guilty in the Longtan land deal case. Continue reading

Possible DPP & KMT vice presidential candidates

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is set to be confirmed as the DPP’s presidential candidate in 2012. Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be the KMT’s candidate. Both parties are yet to select their vice presidential candidates. I have listed the likely contenders from both parties below with some brief analysis.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) – Su narrowly lost the primary and declared he had no interest in being the vice presidential candidate. However, he may still be persuaded to take the position.

Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) – the DPP’s presidential candidate in 2008 is still a key player in the party.

Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) – Su almost won the mayoral election in Taichung last year and is currently the DPP’s secretary-general. He is a strong campaigner and would be a good choice. Continue reading

Morning tea with Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen speaks to foreign community

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) spoke to a group of foreign residents in Taipei yesterday morning. She first spent some time outlining her vision for Taiwan before taking questions from the floor.  Tsai is currently on leave from her position as chair of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as she competes in the party’s primary for the presidential nomination. The primary will be decided by opinion polls conducted in the next few days with the announcement of the result expected on 4 May. Continue reading