Taiwan’s Nationalist party, the Kuomintang, which had been drawing closer to China in business and diplomacy, suffered a crushing defeat in local elections. The result has been variously attributed to the rising cost of living, protests over trade deals, and concerns over authoritarian China’s influence in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The KMT lost nine of the 15 positions for city mayor and county chief.
Among the factors:
- trade deals with China have not had a benefit for ordinary people and many fear more jobs could be lost.
- rather it is the Big Business elites in Taiwan, who have also been cultivated by China’s authoritarian capitalism, who have benefited or stand to benefit the most from the system.
- the middle-class have to deal with soaring house prices (fuelled by real estate speculation) and the rising cost of living (just like in Hong Kong). House prices have surged by 82 per cent since 2008 while income inequality has widened.
- real incomes have either stagnated or shrunk to below 1998 levels, and there is a fear that trade deals will put further pressure on wages.
- the unpopularity and public distrust of the leader, President Ma, over unfulfilled promises of economic revival and flip-flop policies.
There are at least four lessons we can draw from this:
- the people’s welfare – not the cronies and tycoons’ – should come first.
- ordinary voters will be less inclined to vote for the ruling party if the cost of living (including soaring property prices) is burdening them.
- leaders’ flip-flop decisions on key issues or policies could come back to haunt them. They do not enhance credibility, unless done for principled reasons.
- key trade pacts should benefit the ordinary people (including workers), not just Big Business.