President Tsai is to Unyoke from Her Two Kinds of Consciousness
By Wang Chien-chuang
United Daily News, June 13, 2020
Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu was recalled on June 6, and then Kaohsiung City Council Speaker Hsu Kun-yuan committed suicide by jumping off his apartment building the same evening. The removal and the suicide both happened in Kaohsiung on the same day.
But President Tsai Ing-wen was indulging herself in the dismissal of the city mayor, being still totally unaware of the death of the speaker. She wrote a passage on Facebook that night, "Today, there are more than 900,000 Kaohsiung citizens voted down the city mayor... Let’s move Taiwan a step forward in democracy." Obviously, Tsai misplayed her dual role of the chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and president at the moment when she wrote on the Facebook. When Mayor Han was dismissed and the Speaker Hsu committed suicide, she should remark as the president rather than as the DPP chairwoman. After Mayor Han was removed from the office, she should play the role as a unifier rather than as a winner. President Tsai should serve as a pacifier instead of being indifferent to the speaker’s demise.
Although Taiwan’s democracy has long been well prepared, the consciousness of voters in this island republic is higher than that of citizens. The consciousness of political parties is higher than that of the state. It is a really a key to the immaturity of Taiwan’s political culture under its democratic system. The president is often subject to the consciousness of voters and consciousness of the political parties without her knowledge.
However, President Tsai must get rid of these two kinds of consciousness. Because as a re-elected president, Tsai is not to secure a third four-year presidential term by law. She should expect herself to be a unifier instead of continuing the role of competitor she has been positioned herself for many years.
In the wake of Han’s retaliatory dismissal, and possibly a resulting vicious circle of retaliation, it is even more difficult for the social rift to heal. As a unifier, President Tsai should shoulder her responsibility to heal the social rift.
Besides, President Tsai is equipped with full powers. Since she was re-elected this January, Tsai became the first president with five powers in hand. Her powers, including the executive, legislative, and judicial, are absolutely unprecedented, but does this all-powerful president still need to be narrowly partisan now? The Kuomintang (KMT) has been down, is it necessary to kick this minority party out? More importantly, at a time of drastic changes in U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, can a divided Taiwan cope with future mega-changes? Tsai is the incumbent president, and the answers to these questions lie in her mind.
What role national leaders can play at a critical moment is crucial. Take President Donald Trump of the United States as an example, more than 100,000 Americans were in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but Trump did not play the role of a pacifier. Even further, in many fierce racial conflicts, President Trump has never ever played the role of unifier. The former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis had no choice but to say: "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try.”
President Trump’s perfect negative example is quite evident. President Tsai should certainly know what her choice is. But to unite the Taiwanese people, even if she pretends to try, may be at the top of her agenda during her second term in the capacity of president?
(The author is visiting professor at Shih Hsin University.)