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Feb 18, 2008

A more serious Ma scandal: but will it matter?

The Taipei Times reports:

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷)campaign team yesterday accused Hsieh's Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) counterpart Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of violating the Public Officials' Conflicts of Interests Prevention Act (公職人員利益衝突迴避法).

Hsieh's camp alleged that Ma's older sister, Ma Yi-nan (馬以南), a former deputy manager of a pharmaceutical company, received incentives by monopolizing the supply of drugs to the Taipei City Municipal Hospital during Ma Ying-jeou's term as city mayor in 1999.

Hsieh camp spokesman Hsu Kuo-yong (徐國勇) said the campaign team had evidence to prove Ma Yi-nan's drug company, China Chemical Pharmaceutical Co, received benefits by being the sole drug provider to the hospital.

Another Hsieh spokesman, Chao Tian-lin (趙天麟), said the campaign would reveal more evidence to back up its allegations against Ma Ying-jeou in the next two or three days and urged the KMT candidate to come clean on the subject.

The law states that public servants are prohibited from using their position to establish commercial ties with their close relatives. Since Ma Yi-nan is the former mayor's sister, Ma Ying-jeou should not have allowed her to do business with a municipal hospital, Hsu said.

This whole multiple spokesman thing is totally getting out of hand. Both camps seem to have an entire team of these people, and that never helps you stay on message or keep the tone you are interested in. It's apparently just a way to employee people who would otherwise be out of the spotlight, including former legislators who didn't win seats this time around.

But that complaint aside, this seems to be a relatively serious corruption allegation, but it's hard to say how well founded. You can tell this from Ma's and the hospital's response:

When approached for a response later yesterday, Ma Ying-jeou called on the Hsieh camp to take its accusations to prosecutors and allow the judicial system to examine the case. He declined to give any further response.

Taipei City Hospital vice president Huang Chun-cheng (黃遵誠) yesterday dismissed the accusations and insisted that the hospital has always followed the Government Purchase Act (採購法) and chosen pharmaceutical companies by a public bidding process for all medicines purchased. Huang urged the Hsieh campaign team to provide solid evidence before making allegations against the hospital.

I imagine this allegation will have some sort of marginal effect on Ma's image and numbers. But I don't know ... can it change the picture? I think the general mood is that nobody is expecting really clean politicians anymore. People held out hope for that when the DPP was elected both times, but the feeling is that everyone's corrupt anyway. Will Hsieh's allegations make a difference?

I can't speak for others, but as a green supporter, I felt despair over the legislative election results. But that was expected. I knew the DPP didn't have a chance, even if the scale of defeat surprised me. But the looming presidential election hangs like a storm cloud. By all accounts, Ma is in the lead and Hsieh's campaign has been lackluster. Most people are betting Ma can get some 60 percent of the vote. And a defeat this time would not feel like a defeat in 2000 or 2004 would have felt. At that time, I think the DPP psychologically could have afforded a loss. This time, it feels like a "do or die" situation -- in which the DPP's very likely to die.

I am honestly convinced that a Ma victory would be a shockingly swift nail in the coffin to the Taiwanese independence movement, since the peace agreement Ma wants to sign with Beijing will likely formalize a framework where unification is the only option and eternally maintaining a de facto independence will be a non-option. Taiwan's future will be taken out of the hands of Taiwanese people and put into the hands of the United Front. And the KMT will effectively be rewarded for making it as tough as posisble for the DPP to do anything.

And I see little hope that this can be avoided.


David said...

Your prognosis is a little depressing. What concerns me about Ma is not the allegations against him, but the way he has handled the allegations. He objects to the CEC doing a check on his possible status as a resident of the USA. It should just be a simple formality. What does he have to hide?

阿牛 said...

And you know, maybe the allegations are all a bunch of crap, but you're right, Ma has handled them by pretending they aren't there or making silly objections.

But why does it seem like the momentum is set? It feels like nothing that happens in the race is going to make a difference.

Raj said...

He objects to the CEC doing a check on his possible status as a resident of the USA. It should just be a simple formality.

No, I think he complained because someone in the CEC said having a green card wasn't an issue - or something to that effect. So having an investigation on that point was irrelevant and was just being used to try to tarnish his reputation. I don't know if that's all correct, but it's what he seems to be arguing.

As for the presidential elections, I think the DPP winning in both 2000 and 2004 was a complete disaster for them. They didn't have enough support in the legislative to do much good. If they'd won in 2004 they probably would have had better elections at the local and legislative level, such that they would have been competitive in the recent ones.

The break-up/"death" of a party is never a nice prospect for supporters but it is something they need to prepare for such that it doesn't happen. The worst thing you can do is make it a "do or die" election because then you really will have a terrible future if you don't win! The DPP shouldn't resign themselves to defeat, but they need to work out how to move forward from becoming the Opposition again.

As for the fear of Taiwanese independence itself dying, I disagree. Taiwan is already independent. What I think you mean is Taiwan not being able to resolve its status by becoming a fully independent republic with no constitutional ties to China. But that was always a pipe-dream, as China would have launched an invasion/placed embargoes on the island. It's wishful thinking to believe the international community could be won around to support Taiwan's position. Rightly or wrongly they see it as being one of those nails that refuse to be hammered down.

But not becoming the "Republic of Taiwan" does not mean it will lose independence in terms of the actual meaning of the word - the ability to govern its own affairs. The KMT won't sell the island out because they would be selling themselves out. If the CCP convicts and executes its own senior members when the opportunity is right, why the hell wouldn't they do the same to the KMT when convenient? The KMT has to keep Taiwan independent from China, despite the rhetoric of any agreements, because it is the only way to guarantee its survival.

N.J said...

CEC doing a check on his possible status as a resident of the USA make it look like Ma has something to hide. peoples will start wondering if Ma was innocent, why does CEC want to check which was obviously targeted at him. I'm more interested in Hsieh "Group X of 10" according to Hsieh, those 10 are the scums of Taiwan and have been blackmailing many politicians over the last decade. He know all about them.
It's simple for Hsieh, expose the 10, make yourselves a hero by saving Taiwan from those scumbags otherwise the joke will be on Hsieh.