Not much chance to participate here today, but I did want to draw attention to the long blog post on rural politics and farm associations in Taiwan I put up yesterday. Unfortunately this crucial political subsystem doesn’t get enough publicity, so that the import of the recent changes made by the pan-Blues to the laws governing these associations is missed.
[ul]The past few days the Taipei Times has been running articles on the changes at one of the most important of the nation’s rural institutions, the farmer’s associations. According to this 2005 paper, Taiwan has 281 local farmers’ associations, 21 city and county farmers’ associations and one provincial farmers’ association. “These local farmers’ associations are the most important social and economic cooperative organizations in local areas of Taiwan.” They are critical for understanding how Taiwan’s politics function.
The farmers’ associations were established in 1900 by local farmers during the Japanese colonial period. The colonial government took them over and operated them as an administrative arm of the government. They formed the core of the colonial government’s agricultural extension program, which was involved in standardizing seed varieties, introducing new farming methods, and other developmentalist activities. Membership was required of all rural households. By the 1920s these were major institutions with 40,000 employees…[/ul]
Reform-minded KMT legislators are worried that the rule changes, meant to institutionalize KMT-favorable corruption at the local level, may rebound to Ma Ying-jeou’s discredit in the upcoming Presidential polls, and have joined DPP calls to reverse the changes. I don’t see why they would affect Ma, whose support for corrupt KMT politicians is well known, but…