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Taiwan prez begins second term

world Updated: May 20, 2012 00:12 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Petrol, electricity and American beef are likely to be on President Ma Ying-jeo's mind when his second term as President is inaugurated without much fanfare in Taipei on Sunday.

Kuomintang party chairman Ma won his second term in January, but latest polls show that his popularity had dipped to some of the lowest points during his tenure as the head of state.

Preparations for the inauguration of his second term were on even as a demonstration was held near the President's office in the heart of capital Taipei on Saturday. Number of roads were blocked as protesters gathered, slowing down weekend traffic to a crawl.

According to locals, people are dissatisfied with the government on account of moves to increase prices of petroleum products and electricity. Taiwanese are also very suspicious about the health impact of beef exported from the US -- Ma has pushed for its import -- which is said to contain ractopamine, an additive.

Taiwan had banned US beef imports in 2003 after the outbreak of the mad cow disease. It relaxed rules three years later to allow boneless beef. But people here were outraged when Taiwan moved during Ma's first term to again allow beef on bone, minced beef and cow organs; the move was stalled. A new outbreak hasn't helped Ma's move either.

On Saturday, the United Daily News - which the local newspaper the China Post called "usually pro-Kuomintang" - said a new survey showed 66% respondents didn't approve of the government; only 23% gave approval.

"A total of 56% of the people have no confidence in Ma's capability to lead Taiwan, compared to 38% who said they do so," the newspaper quoted the survey as saying.

But government officials said Saturday's protests and polls show that Taiwan is a multi-party democracy and there is space for everybody to criticise and show dissent.

"President Ma is thinking about the whole country; his is a macro-view. Even now petroleum product prices in Taiwan are low compared to other developed countries. So, people react when there's a little increase," an official who didn't want to be named said.

The main opposition party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also doesn't support Ma's moves to increasingly improve ties with China. Bejing doesn't recognise an independent Taiwan, which formally calls itself Republic of China. Many countries, following the one-China policy, including India doesn't formally recognise Taiwan.