Taiwan incumbent sworn into 2nd term amid protests

Some 40,000 people took to the streets in a colorful demonstration that brought traffic in parts of the city to a virtual standstill.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou at innauguration_370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou at innauguration_370
(photo credit: Reuters)
TAIPEI – Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated into a second term in office on Sunday amid slumping poll ratings and mass protests.
Some 40,000 people took to the streets on Saturday afternoon in a colorful demonstration that brought traffic in parts of the city to a near standstill ahead of the president’s inaugural address the next morning morning.
Thousands of protesters staged a sit in on the main Kaitekalan Boulevard to express dissatisfaction at the policies of Ma and the ruling Kuomintang party.
Demonstrators said they were angered by Ma’s energy reforms, which have seen recent hikes in the price of fuel and electricity, rising national debt and the president’s intent to lift a ban on US beef imports despite concern over use of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine.
Some demonstrators also called for the release from prison of former president Chen Shui-bian who is serving a 19-year sentence after having been convicted on bribery charges that his supporters say were politically motivated.
One protester held up a banner reading: “Cattle can’t get ill, Ma could be fatal,” while a pair of staffers from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party came directly from their wedding banquet with the bride capturing the spotlight in her bright-red wedding gown.
“I will remember this day for all my life, not only because it’s my wedding day, but also because this is the day when so many Taiwanese people have come out to tell the government that we’re suffering,” the bride, Chang Chia-ling, told the Taipei Times.
A poll published by the United Daily News on Saturday showed an approval rating of a mere 23 percent, with 57% of respondents saying they had “no confidence in Ma’s capability to lead Taiwan.” Ma was elected to a second term in office earlier this year with 51.6% of the vote.
Against the backdrop of the precipitous decline in Ma’s approval ratings, opposition lawmakers attempted last week to pass a bill that would make it possible to recall the president before the end of the first year of his current term in office. The bill was blocked by the Kuomintang party.
Meanwhile, speaking at his inaugural address on Sunday, Ma said he would continue to pursue stable cross-straits relationships with China, but would remain opposed to reunification with the mainland.
Ma said that Taiwan’s security rested on three legs: cross-straits rapprochement, viable diplomacy and military strength to deter external threats.
“Over the past four years, we have improved cross-strait relations and reduced cross-strait tension. This has brought peace and prosperity,” he said.
Ma added, however, that Taiwan must maintain the status quo of “no unification, no independence and no use of force,” with each side acknowledging the existence of one China and each side maintaining its own interpretation of what that means.