The “September Political Struggle” (九月政爭) was one of the events within Taiwanese electoral politics which led up the the Sunflower Movement in adding to the weight of charges that the Ma administration was wholly willing to subvert Taiwanese democracy in order to persecute political rivals. Apart from the precedent of the imprisonment of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-Bian (陳水扁), at that point the only non-KMT Taiwanese president in history, on charges which many were divided on whether to believe or not, the September Political Struggle involved Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) being willing to persecute political rivals.
The “September Political Conflict” took place in 2013, with accusations that Ker Chien-Ming (柯建銘) attempted to seek aid from Wang Jinpyng (王金平), at that time, the KMT majority speaker, to use his influence to clear Ker of charges of illegal lobbying, or, as some would have it, outright embezzlement. Ker hoped to have Wang convince Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫), the Ministry of Justice, to not pursue charges against Ker.
Ker Chien-Ming. Photo credit: VOA
This information was apparently discovered because the Special Investigation Division was wiretapping Ker’s phone as part of investigations into corruption and unintentionally discovered evidence of this secret collusion between Wang and Ker. However, the wiretapping of Ker’s phone, apparently at the behest of Ma Ying-Jeou, subsequently also became a matter of controversy, with the accusation that Ma was wiretapping the phones of his political opponents and that he had subsequently leaked information about this to premier Jiang Yi-Huah and top aide Lo Chih-Chiang.
This was not helped by the fact that Ma attempted to use the scandal of collusion between Wang and Ker to try and remove Wang from his post as speaker of the KMT and to expel Wang from the KMT. This seemed reflective to many of tensions between Ma’s pro-China “Mainlander” faction of the KMT and Wang’s more pro-localization “Taiwanese” faction of the KMT. Many in the “Mainlander” faction of the KMT perceive Wang and the “Taiwanese” faction of the KMT as not so different from the DPP and members of the pan-Green camp or, more conspiratorially, as secretly working for the DPP. Behind-the-scenes collusion between Ker and Wang seemed further evidence of that.
Yet, of course, Ma wiretapping Ker’s phone, using the incriminating information he discovered against Ker and Wang and leaking this information to political allies, raised easy accusations that Ma was reviving methods of cracking down on political dissent dating back to the KMT’s authoritarian rule of Taiwan during the martial law period. It must be remembered that Ma Ying-Jeou taking power in 2008 was the second political transition of power which had taken place in Taiwanese history and this was not too long after Chen Shui-Bian’s arrest.
Ma Ying-jeou. Photo credit: VOA
As such, some called for Ma’s impeachment during the September Political Struggle and this added to the perception that the Ma administration was undemocratic, even autocratic. Some within the pan-Blue camp in fact perceive the Sunflower Movement as retribution, in fact, for the September Political Struggle, with there existing some conspiratorial claims that the plan to occupy the Legislative Yuan was formulated then.
This is unlikely. The course of the Sunflower Movement itself proved that the student occupiers of the Legislative Yuan were also hostile towards Wang Jinpyng as a member of the KMT, even if they saw him as a grade better than Ma because of Wang’s greater advocacy of localization efforts for the KMT. Moreover, secret collaboration between Ker and Wang added to the perception that the elements of the DPP had proven to be no better than the KMT once in power, proving equally corrupt and undemocratic.
Nevertheless, what is very clear was that the September Political Struggle played a very significant role in why the Sunflower Movement lasted for as long as it did. Seeing as Wang had say over the Legislative Yuan, his conflict with Ma was crucial as to why police were not ordered to clear students out of the Legislative Yuan right away, Wang breaking ranks for Ma in this matter. In order to secure the something that could be declared an victory as cause for the movement to justify withdrawal, at a certain point onwards, the leadership within the Legislative Yuan directed their appeals primarily at Wang. Wang agreeing to pass the Cross-Straits Oversight Bill was ultimately his breaking ranks with Ma.