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Healthy optimism for Taiwan government, skepticism on China

With the DPP’s rout of the KMT in the local elections still sinking in and people digesting the reasons behind the unequivocal bashing handed out to the ruling party, the clock has begun counting till the time when the newly elected officials will have to turn in results on their campaign promises.

For example, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu’s promise to transform Kaohsiung into a low-pollution, high-value industry city. She touted underground sewage pipeline coverage increasing from 38 percent to 52 percent from 2010 to 2014.

Across the three metropolises, the theme of improving public transportation has also been taken up by the elected, and for good reason. The ease and safety of commuting is a fundamental, tangible theme that citizens have to contend with in everyday life. Every one of the 38 districts in Kaohsiung has bus routes running through it now, according to Chen, and that represents a boost in services for the public that deserves recognition.

Kaohsiung was also the site of the tragic explosions of underground gas pipes in July, which resulted in the deaths of 32 people. It was also the site of horrific chemical pollution in the Houjin River, which was turned into a dead copper-colored stream contaminated by industrial waste. It is certain that Mayor Chen, who won by a hugely commanding margin, has to make great efforts to improve the environmental protection record in her zone.

In Taichung, the Bus Rapid Transit system did not save Mayor Jason Hu from being replaced by Mayor-elect Lin Chia-lung. Thus, while big-spending public transportation projects are eye-catching, it’s clear that citizens prefer items that they really do experience as a bonus in their everyday lives. Lin’s proposal for the merging of the mountain and coastal rail lines, two ports and three sub-city centers, rests on an idealized concept for his city, and we look forward to seeing him implement greater transportation improvements in central Taiwan.

Taipei City Mayor-elect Ko Wen-je’s plan to build a “chessboard” network of bicycle lanes in Taipei is also welcome. The YouBike system is a hugely successful enterprise that Mayor Hau Lung-bin counts as a major achievement of his time in office, but Ko is right that the lack of boundaries between the lanes ― on many major roads and simply drawn with white lines on pavements ― means friction and collisions with vehicles and pedestrians occur with imaginable ease. Ko blames the rising numbers of bicycle injuries reported at NTU Hospital over the last three years on YouBike’s popularity.

Of course, some skepticism toward soundbites is also appropriate, as even though one may be elected, it is critical that representatives clear up any lack of clarity in their proposals or admit to exaggeration. For example, Ko’s proposal for “open government” is a fundamental pillar of his candidacy and his team built an image of the unsullied “everyday man” as the source of his successful popular appeal. We look forward to the introduction today of his online citizen participation program for selecting city officials, although its efficacy remains to be seen.

In terms of the overall landscape of Taiwan, Ko’s idea of transcending the boundaries of blue and green has one possible benefit that, if realized, applies throughout the nation: reorienting the country’s electoral democracy toward one that focuses on policy instead of identity, as is the ideal.

While one certainly can’t say this has been achieved in all democracies, the proper orientation of this system of government is to debate policies that impact society instead of fighting over identity allegiances.

It is indisputable that as a result of the current political divisions, a huge vote of no-confidence has been dealt to the KMT and its China policy. The blue and green camps are divided along an identity chasm first and foremost, and the cross-strait relationship is core to Taiwan’s politics.

A strong disapproval is being registered to the current way of dealing with the mainland, many commentators so conjecture, and both Taipei and Beijing would be wise to reflect on why there is a likelihood that distrust of cozy relations caused the KMT’s loss.

(Editorial, The China Post (Taiwan))

(Asia News Network)