Given Taiwan’s authoritarian past, it is not surprising, then, that one of the major criticisms of the Ma administration was the perception that the actions of the Ma administration were leading to the deterioration of representative democracy in Taiwan and unaccountable strengthening of executive power. Namely, a reversion to authoritarianism is widely feared in Taiwan.
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While one sees accusations of authoritarian ambitions against parties of all political stripes, it is unsurprising that such levels are levelled against the KMT, which ruled during the authoritarian period and was allowed to continue to exist following the democratic transition. In particular, the KMT is sometimes seen as only having given up power reluctantly, and a consequence of Taiwan’s peaceful democratic transition was that many political actors from the authoritarian period avoided prosecution and continue to act in political roles. Likewise, seeing as the KMT continues to call for the political unification of Taiwan and China, which is not a democracy, it is not surprising that the KMT’s actions would come to be increasingly perceived as authoritarianism.
Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) himself has been accused of opposing opening general elections to the Taiwanese public during Taiwan’s democratic transition, despite that Ma was later himself democratically elected as president. Hence why accusations of “Dictator Ma” came to be thrown at Ma during the Sunflower Movement.
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But, more seriously, the forcing of the CSSTA through the legislature was seen by many as throwing off the constraints of Taiwan’s democratic system of governance in order and this may have been the straw which broke the camel’s back, in terms of widespread public outrage. The actions of KMT legislators, then, were increasingly seen as aimed at fulfilling the ideological goals of the KMT in fulfilling the party’s ideological goal of unification with China and not at all beholden to the voters who had put them into office. This was perceived as a breakdown in Taiwan’s democracy and potentially a sign of resurgent authoritarianism, which was in part the impetus for the movement.