Tuesday, July 15, 2014

EDITORIAL: Playing the ‘blame the DPP’ game

Tue, Jul 15, 2014 - Page 8

Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, has always been a potent totem not only for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), but also many Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters to point to when it comes to what was wrong with his administration.

For the KMT and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Chen has always been an easy target, as they seek to remind voters what happened when they cast their votes for the other — read wrong — party and the other — read really wrong — candidate, and strive to convince the public that the DPP is the party of corruption, not the KMT, even though the KMT turned “black gold” into an art form.

Since Ma became president, he has loved to talk about Chen and the DPP, especially when the public is unhappy with his performance and inability to deliver on campaign promises.

Referring to the nation’s economy, Ma has said it would take much more time to rebuild Taiwan’s competitiveness because of the DPP’s isolationist policies. Discussing foreign policy, including arms procurement, the DPP administration’s relations with Beijing and Washington were so bad that it would not be easy to restore them, he said. The Chen administration put the nation on the wrong track in terms of education policy, he said.

The list goes on and on.

The “blame-Chen-and-the-DPP” tactics have gotten so bad that netizens and opposition supporters nicknamed the former president “Bianvera,” inspired by legendary US Major League Baseball reliever Mariano Rivera, who served as theNew York Yankees’ No. 1 closer for 17 years and led the league in career saves.

“Bianvera” keeps getting called out of the bullpen to rescue Ma and the KMT from their poor governance — actually for anything — when nothing could explain why Ma’s administration is unable to meet its well-publicized goals and when it needs a top story to squeeze the bad news about the administration out of newspaper headlines, netizens and opposition supporters have said.

Another increasingly popular metaphor is that Chen is the KMT’s ATM, a guaranteed source of cash from supporters whenever it needs it.

However, it now appears that Chen will no longer be the only reliever in the bullpen. It looks like DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has joined him. Since Tsai assumed the party’s helm in May for a second time, KMT headquarters, the Presidential Office and even Ma himself have launched numerous attacks against her. DPP headquarters has estimated that the KMT has spent at least NT$10 million (US$332,000) on 17 television and Internet campaigns against Tsai in the past six weeks.

The KMT said Tsai must be held responsible for DPP lawmakers’ boycott of the legislature’s vote on Control Yuan nominees and her party’s dismissal of the national affairs conference on the economy and trade. It has criticized her for hiring student leaders as DPP officials, accused her of protectionism because of her opposition to the proposed free economic pilot zones plan and labeled her as too tolerant of the sometimes violent protests that greeted China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍).

The anti-Tsai offensive not only aims to hide the KMT’s many weaknesses, but is a clear attempt to polarize society and intensify the blue-green struggle in the run-up to the seven-in-one elections in November.

Both the KMT and Ma know that if the blue-green struggle can be emphasized, it will be easier for the KMT to hold on to its traditional support base of about 55 percent of total voters, even with a president whose approval ratings fell into the single digits in September last year and have remained there.

Blaming Chen has not helped the nation move forward and blaming Tsai will not help either. The public knows that.

The question is if the Ma and the KMT will ever understand it.