Hou Yu-ih’s Manifesto for the Future of Taiwanese Politics | Taiwan News

In recent years, the Kuomintang (KMT) has moved on to overheated accusations of accusing the Tsai administration of being “a dictatorship” which imposes “green terror”.

While the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is also guilty of partisan attacks and below-the-belt charges, the KMT has gone further by appealing to its deep base – with disastrous results in terms of his appeal to independent voters.

Even so, repeated surveys show that the most popular and nationally recognized Taiwanese politician is the Mayor of New Taipei Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) of the KMT, often with wide margins. Hou is the only national politician to enjoy support from across the political spectrum, including many DPP supporters and independents.

Hou is widely expected to be the 2024 presidential candidate. Future columns will explore why his path to the presidency is more difficult than many observers believe due to his controversial history. However, the fact remains, he is possibly the most talented politician in the country and he cannot be excluded.

Until recently, Hou’s strategy was to avoid national politics by saying he was focusing on his job as mayor of New Taipei. This allowed him to avoid getting drawn into the partisan fight of the day.

His rare forays into national politics in the past have been few but instructive. Two stand out.

One of them was when he attended the second inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), calling it an honor. Many other politicians in his party boycotted the event, but it demonstrated that part of Hou’s appeal is his willingness to work with pan-green (pro-DPP) figures.

The other was when he was forced to attend rallies for then-KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), and Hou refused even when the rallies weren’t away from his desk. This slap to Han was highlighted by Hou saying that he had just started his job as mayor and was too busy.

Han toxic

Hou saw early on that Han was playing with the deep blue base (pro-KMT) and was toxic to the broad electorate, and distanced himself accordingly. It was a politically astute move, Han suffered a crushing loss after an angry and bitterly partisan campaign.

Until December, Hou had largely continued to do his job as mayor of New Taipei and stayed away from national politics, which was popular. This did mean, however, that what he actually stood for was unclear.

On December 13, Hou issued a 1000 character declaration on Facebook on the next referendum votes. He had finally taken a bold decision to consolidate his hold on the public imagination and forge a nationally recognized political identity.

Her post reads like a personal political manifesto, and Facebook is where Taiwanese politicians post their missives because they know they will be widely shared and available in their entirety, without the filter of media interpretation. If Hou ever becomes president, this position will likely be viewed by historians and biographers as one of the key transition points in his career.

The context in which it was written is very important. The Pan-Blue and Pan-Green camps were in the midst of a partisan battle to get voters to side with their party line on the four points of the referendum.

His own party grew increasingly angry with Hou for not showing support for the party line. Hou had previously rejected one of the elements of the referendum supported by the KMT – the restarting of the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant – and had only shown his support in the referendum initiated by the KMT for the ban on pork containing ractopamine.

Referendum views

Here’s how Hou, a KMT politician who is under intense pressure from his party to follow the line, begins an article titled “My Take on Referendums”:

“I think therefore I am”, which is why everyone is unique. It’s not just how we look that makes us different, it’s even more the way we think. It should be from their own thought and deliberation that conclusions are drawn, and no other person should limit or lock you up. It is mutual respect, and even more the expression of free will.

He goes on to point out that for the past 10 years or so, people have rejected traditional “force-fed” education with an emphasis on rote learning. He adds that some adults who grew up this way are now parents who go to great lengths to try to convince young people that they are wrong.

“Originally it was assumed that each (referendum) topic would be discussed individually, how did that get wrong, with friends and enemies acting like it was an election, opposing, clashing – isn’t everyone fed up? “

“Whether you are in the opposition or in the ruling party, opinion leaders have a responsibility, on behalf of the people, to clearly state the pros and cons. Those in government authority have an even greater responsibility to solve future problems and not tell us to pick an “O” or an “X” (on our ballots). “

He goes on to describe how he, like so many when he was young, “drifted north” in search of a better life. “The last thing Taiwan needs is back and forth fighting, we just want them to do their best to get things done and persevere to do the right thing.”

It’s time to pivot

He then turns to himself: “In the decades that have passed since I entered the public service, I have from the beginning kept the passion to serve the people and the nation, now for half of my life. life. In the great last half of life to come, I will persevere and hold firmly to the constant value of the concept that the benefit of the nation and the people is paramount. “

He concludes with: “From the first day I became a police officer until the age of 61, I ran for office, my initial aspiration has always been to protect the nation. I tell myself that in the end my greatest efforts must be to protect public health, national stability, industrial development – to enable everyone on this earth to live peacefully and well, and to find happiness and happiness. joy in their life and work.

It is a manifesto and a call for a government philosophy devoid of petty partisanship. This was his response not only to pressure from his party to comply, but to policy in general.

This is not new, of course. This is largely what prompted then independent candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and chairman of the Taiwanese People’s Party (TPP) to be elected mayor of Taipei in 2014.

Hou is polished, smooth and eloquent. He is a Taiwanese political master who knows when to shut up, when to speak out and when to speak in circles.

Hou is in many ways the heir to former President Lee Tung-hui (李登輝;) in his mastery of the art form of classical political leadership and bad leadership. Like Lee, he comes from a family that has lived in Taiwan for hundreds of years and does not speak in the more direct style of those descended from immigrants in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

It is a blessing for the broad electorate, but a curse for the elites of the KMT. Some of them curse him for being a traitor and warn that he is “walk the Lee Tung-hui road”.

To this review, he replied, “I will never change. Although he has made many enemies in his own party, Hou is no doubt aware that Taiwanese rank Lee as the best president in the history of the nation.

A future column will examine why his path to the presidency, if indeed his plan, is fraught with pitfalls that will be difficult to overcome despite his popularity and obvious political skills.

Courtney Donovan Smith (石東文) is a regular columnist for Taiwan News, the central Taiwan correspondent for ICRT Radio News, co-editor of Compass Magazine, co-founder of Taiwan Report (report.tw) and former chairman of the American Chamber of Taichung of Commerce.

Janice J. Kostka