Five years on, and despite being handily re-elected ten months ago, much has changed. In particular, popular satisfaction with Mr Ma has plummeted, to a record low of 13%, according to the TVBS Poll Centre. The country appears to agree on one thing: Mr Ma is an ineffectual bumbler.
Ordinary people do not find their livelihoods improving. Salaries have stagnated for a decade. The most visible impact of more open ties with China, which include a free-trade agreement, has been property speculation in anticipation of a flood of mainland money. Housing in former working-class areas on the edge of Taipei, the capital, now costs up to 40 times the average annual wage of $15,400. The number of families below the poverty line has leapt. Labour activists have taken to pelting the presidential office with eggs.
Exports account for 70% of GDP. So some of Taiwan’s problems are down to the dismal state of rich-world economies. Yet Mr Ma’s leadership is also to blame. He has failed to paint a more hopeful future, with sometimes hard measures needed now. Worse, he frequently tweaks policies in response to opposition or media criticism. It suggests indecisiveness.
Public anger first arose in June, when Mr Ma raised the price of government-subsidised electricity. Few Taiwanese understood why, even though Taiwan’s state-owned power company loses billions. In the face of public outrage, Mr Ma postponed a second round of electricity price rises scheduled for December. They will now take place later next year.
People are also worried that a national pension scheme is on course for bankruptcy in less than two decades. Yet Mr Ma cannot bring himself to raise premiums sharply, because of the temporary unpopularity it risks. When Mr Ma does try to appeal to Taiwanese who make up the island’s broad political centre, it often backfires with his party’s core supporters. Following public grumbles that retired civil servants, teachers and ex-servicemen were a privileged group, the cabinet announced plans to cut more than $300m in year-end bonuses, affecting around 381,000. The trouble was, veterans are among the KMT’s most fervent backers. Now some threaten to take to the streets in protest and deprive the KMT of their votes until the plan is scrapped. Meanwhile, Mr Ma’s clean image has been sullied by the indictment of the cabinet secretary-general for graft.
Cracks are starting to grow in the KMT façade. Recently Sean Lien, a prominent politician, criticised Mr Ma’s economic policies, saying that any politician in office during this time of sluggish growth was at best a “master of a beggar clan”—implying a country of paupers.
But the next election is four years away, and presidential hopefuls will not try to oust or even outshine Mr Ma anytime soon. After all, they will not want to take responsibility for the country’s economic problems. Nothing suggests Mr Ma’s main policies will change (or that they should), but his credibility is draining by the day.
當他在2008年首次當選, 台灣人民對於馬寄予厚望, 人民希望台灣經濟將開啟新的篇章。馬承諾與中國將有突破性的協議, 希望中國能幫助結束台灣日益嚴重的經濟邊緣化。當時, 馬英九的形象超越他所屬的政黨, 國民黨（KMT）一個只會的搞裙帶關係和內訌的政黨, 牠是一個清廉的技術專家。馬的形象和支持台獨貪腐以及目前被關在大牢裡面的前總統陳水扁行成一個強烈的對比。
五年來，儘管10個月前輕而易舉地又重新連任, 但時局的變化已大。特別是, 馬英九的執政滿意度大幅下降, 根據TVBS的民調中心資料顯示,馬的滿意度已經達到創紀錄的低水平13％。這份民調顯示了大部分的台灣人民認為：馬先生是個無能的白痴。