Premier Lai Ching-te’s remarks on 2018 election results

  • Date: 2018-12-07
  • Source: Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan

Premier Lai Ching-te convened a post-election review press conference at the Executive Yuan Friday. The following is a translation of selected sections from his remarks.

The people’s voices have been heard
Executive Yuan review of 2018 election results

The results of the 2018 nine-in-one local elections have shown with clarity that the public is dissatisfied with this administration. As premier, I must lead my Cabinet in humble reflection and give an account to the people who sent the government a loud and clear message through the election. The Executive Yuan will examine the reasons for the election losses from the people’s perspective, and adjust government policies in accordance with the people’s needs.

Today’s report seeks to answer three questions:

A. What do people expect most from government?
People expect the government to improve the economy.

I believe the economy is not the sole issue on people’s minds, but the greatest expectation is for the government to fix the economy and free people to pursue other goals and interests in life.

B. Have the government’s policies over the past two-plus years met the most pressing needs?
The government has not met the people’s most pressing needs over the past two years or so. Many policies have caused disappointment and discontent:

1. The government failed to understand people’s hardships
For more than two years, Taiwan’s overall economy has performed relatively well, and positive economic indicators published by the government reflect that reality. However, the fruits of economic growth have not benefited everyone uniformly, particularly those sectors feeling the pains of transformation. Many face low wages and rising prices, the service industry catering to domestic demand is enduring difficulties, and ordinary people simply have not felt economic growth. The government failed to see these hardships and did not respond with enough urgency.

In the agricultural sector, the government failed to plan ahead or make adjustments for the growing imbalance between production and sales. As a result, the rights of farmers and fishermen did not receive timely protections.

2. Policies lacked comprehensive planning
The first revision to the Labor Standards Act to implement a five-day workweek was hastily undertaken and failed to consider the balance between workers’ and employers’ rights. This created operational conflicts for small and medium-sized enterprises while impacting their employees as well.

Each autumn and winter, high levels of air pollution and dangerous fine particles known as PM2.5 threaten the health of residents in Taiwan. The Air Pollution Control Act, however, laid out an air quality improvement timetable that was too tight, and authorized the Environmental Protection Administration to enforce strict emission standards for aging vehicles that sparked a public outcry and widespread dissatisfaction. It has become apparent that planning and communication in the early stages were insufficiently thorough.

3. Approaches to reform stirred controversy and dissatisfaction
With the election of a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president and legislative majority in 2016, the government was unified under a single ruling party, which initiated such projects as pension reform, labor law amendments, transitional justice and judicial reform. Although the public supported the intent of these reforms, poor understanding among voters of the actual changes involved led to misunderstanding and controversy when the time came for implementation. Dishonest and fraudulent smears generated negative reactions, which overwhelmed support for the positive aspects of reform.

Our energy policy is heavily focused on renewable sources. While the government is committed to developing renewable and alternate sources of energy in order to achieve a nuclear-free homeland by 2025, the people nevertheless harbor reservations that this goal is attainable.

4. The government lacked an effective, rapid response to fake news
Traditional methods of publicizing information and defending facts proved entirely ineffective during the recent election. The internet has reshaped the media landscape and public opinion. It is no longer possible to put a swift end to misleading reports and dishonest attacks. Ministries and agencies have not been quick enough to take the initiative, and government departments do not have an internet presence sufficient to provide effective commentary. The result is a government unable to grasp the preferences and needs of the public in this digital age.

5. Legislative and executive branch interactions, and deployment of human resources, must be improved
Under the current Constitution, the presidency and national legislators are elected positions, while the premier is appointed by the president. However, determining policy and drafting legislation are the joint responsibilities of the Executive Yuan and Legislature. It is evident that interaction and communication between the executive and legislative branches are currently insufficient, and public opinion is not promptly reflected in policy deliberations. Such deficiencies must be quickly reviewed and corrected.

C. What actions should the government now take?
The DPP’s defeat in this election comes as the result of poor performance and loss of public confidence. This in no way means, however, that the people of Taiwan are willing to forsake their way of life—their sovereignty, freedoms, democracy and human rights—in exchange for some economic advantage.

Going forward, the government must carefully assess and prioritize every policy measure in order to establish the appropriate tack, and then move ahead with thorough planning and implementation. This includes in the areas of greatest public concern such as the economy, education and environmental protection. In addition to professional opinion, consideration must be given to the public’s perspective. This approach will serve in the review of all government policies, enabling us to uphold the values of fairness and justice as we pursue economic prosperity.

The government cannot turn away from the valuable lesson of this election. We must honestly face up to the failures and problems encountered over the past two-plus years, and bring policy in line with the needs of the people. Through concrete action and change, we can win back public trust and support.

I pledge now that when the time comes, I will not hesitate to depart and take political responsibility, as I will not let this review of the vote devolve into empty words. But so long as that moment has not yet arrived, my Cabinet and I will not abide aimless and ineffective governance. We will devote ourselves fully to the tasks at hand.