Taiwan’s President Ma ying-jeou met Typhoon Morakot and seems to have channeled U.S. President George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina.
Flags are flying at half-staff during three days of national mourning to honor those killed by Typhoon Morakot two weeks ago. But anger, not sadness, remains the prevailing sentiment across Taiwan as President Ma Ying-jeou grapples with his worst political crisis since taking office last year.
Despite repeated apologies for a slow response to the storm – which left at least 650 people dead or missing after record rain caused huge landslides – Mr. Ma has been kept busy warding off the skeptical news media and his political opponents, and calming furious survivors.
“The government is sorry,” Mr. Ma said Saturday. “It failed to fulfill its responsibility to protect you.”
Political analysts and even Mr. Ma’s allies in the governing Nationalist Party worry that Typhoon Morakot could become his “Katrina moment,” a blot on his legacy and perhaps an irreversible turning point just 15 months into his administration. But while the post-Morakot posturing makes for great political theater in Taiwan, the outside world is watching to see whether the episode will affect Mr. Ma’s efforts to bring Taiwan closer to China.
The issue clearly is hurting President Ma and lifting the Democratic Progressive Party which, much like the Republican Party in America, has recently suffered devastating electoral losses. The issue also might end up affecting China-Taiwan relations, which President Ma was pushing to improve more rapidly than many Taiwanese thought prudent.
Such are the unpredictable political impacts of weather around the globe.