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Oct 25, 2011

They said it better than I could

An analytical piece from My Formosa has really caught my attention. Peace Agreement news has been flying all week, because since Ma's initial proposal Monday -- where he listed three conditions for the law:

However, Ma, who is running for re-election in the Jan. 14 presidential election, said his administration would only do so if it had strong domestic support and if such a pact met the needs of the country. Any pact would have to be supervised by the legislature, he added.
-- since making that tremendously bold political move, he's managed to make a joke of his own proposal and give the DPP not only tremendous election momentum, but huge momentum for referendum law reform. 

Let me translate a couple paragraphs from the My Formosa article:

The president really ought to plan before acting on something as big as a peace agreemeent, but when Ma suddenly brought up the topic, he had left high-ranking KMT officials in the dark. Two days later [Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman] Chen Yunlin [mentioned] continuing to uphold a policy of economics first, politics later, and avoided discussing the peace agreement, demonstrating Beijing had not been in on the situation. On a topic this big, a policy decision this arbitrary and peremptory obviously attracted criticism from all sides. 
More ridiculously, due to the unsatisfactory response in public opinion on the 17th and 18th, and to reassure those suspicious that he was promoting unification, Ma made a sharp turn deep in the night of the 19th, hastily putting out a press release stating there would definitely be a referendum [before the agreement]. This stunned those in the unification faction who had been thrilled with the original announcement. By the morning of the 20th, Ma realized he had been too rash, and released yet another press release, this time changing "must" have a referendum to "do not eliminate the option of a referendum."  But Chinese and Hong Kong media couldn't bear it, and began making stern warnings en masse. On the 22nd, the DPP took advantage of their position, calling for a reform of the [referendum] law such that "cross strait political agreements must be passed by referendum." Under Chinese pressure Ma again made a rapid about face, immediately responding to the DPP saying there was no need for such a change in law. The plan to hold the referendum is already stillborn.
Now that Ma's oficial stance is "there are other ways to gauge public opinion like opinion polls," you know that it wasn't going to be long for the Executive Yuan's Mainland Affairs Council to release a poll showing 80% support for peace talks. Check.  Meanwhile, despite Ma bringing the referendum topic firmly to the center of the spotlight all by himself, the KMT legislative caucus is accusing the DPP of their old Chen Shui-bian inspired trick of "using the referendum to kidnap the election." 

For those that speak Chinese/Taiwanese (find a friend who does if you don't!), watch this segment of Talking Show from the 20th. From about the 1:30 mark. It was some of my favorite commentary that night on this topic, and I watched 2100 and Talking Show just to make sure I wasn't crazy.

Oct 20, 2011

Hold on there cowboy

So Michael Turton has covered Ma's latest public push for a peace treaty pretty well. But I want to add information on the latest twist: the KMT is going to push for a referendum related to the treaty!

But they won't actually put the agreement itself to a referendum and ask people to pass it. Instead, they're going to try to hold a referendum on the concept of the peace treaty and then begin the detailed negotiations.  The administration is claiming this will satisfy the "public support" precondition that Ma attached to a peace agreement.

This strikes me as a smart political strategy -- because if you just ask "do you want peace?" without outlining actual details of the agreement, you're likely to get a positive response -- but the KMT is going to hit the road block the DPP came up against in the past of getting over 50% of voters to cast any sort of ballot on the referendum. 

The good news there is the KMT could consider revising the referendum law, although I think there would be serious reservations about handling that double-edged sword.

The other danger the KMT faces is the referendum turning out "invalid" due to lack of meeting the voter threshold. Will they argue, as they have in the past, that it constitutes the same as a rejection, a win for the "no" vote, and that for at least three years the policy can't be touched again?

The DPP will find it difficult in principle to oppose the referendum, although I doubt they'll find it difficult to boycott this one, since a boycott constitutes the most effective "no" vote.

Also, I should yell "IT'S A TRAP!" but I'll leave that to others.