2009 ELECTIONS: ANALYSIS: KMT’s lackluster performance seen as warning to Ma*





By Mo Yan-chih
Sunday, Dec 06, 2009, Page 2


President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, should adjust his government policies and respond to public frustrations toward his administration after the KMT suffered important setbacks in yesterday’s local elections, with bigger challenges lying ahead in next year’s special municipality elections, political analysts said last night.

The KMT won 12 of the 17 cities and counties in the election, but lost Yilan County to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), while failing to secure Hualien County from a pan-blue split. The party managed to keep Hsinchu County, but won several counties including Penghu and Taitung by razor-thin margins.

The KMT’s defeat in Yilan County was a major setback for Ma and the party, as Commissioner Lu Kuo-hua (
呂國華) failed to win an re-election despite Ma’s frequent visits to the county during the campaign.

Ma’s heavy campaigning in four other counties — Hualien, Chiayi, Pingtung and Yunlin — also failed to obtain enough votes for its candidates.

For its part, the DPP regained some momentum and obtained better-than-expected results.

Ku Chung-hwa (
顧忠華), a political scientist at National Chengchi University, said Ma had failed his “mid-term exam” and that his popularity within the KMT was fading.

The DPP succeeded in energizing its supporters, while the KMT struggled amid public dissatisfaction and party splits, he said.

“Despite the KMT’s best efforts to separate Ma from the elections, this was seen as a ‘mid-term exam’ for Ma and the public used its votes to express its frustration with the Ma administration,” he said.

Although the KMT won more cities and counties than the DPP, it lost representative and symbolic counties like Yilan, he said.

The performance of the central government has become a burden for the KMT, he said.

Wang Kun-yi (
王崑義), a professor at National Taiwan Ocean University, said that when the DPP was in power, it faced similar difficulties in the last three-in-one election. At the time, the DPP suffered from then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) poor performance and allegations of corruption, Wang said, adding that this time the trouble came from the Ma administration’s poor handling of the global financial crisis, Typhoon Morakot and a controversy over the import of US beef products. All these affected its performance, Wang said.

“The outcome of the elections is a warning to Ma: If his administration continues to fail the public, the KMT will face more difficulties in winning the special municipality elections next year, which could have a negative impact on Ma’s re-election bid in the 2012 presidential election,” he said.

Taipei County, Kaohsiung County, Taichung County, Taichung City, Tainan City and Tainan County were upgraded to special municipalities or integrated into special municipalities earlier this year.

Elections for those areas will be held with those for the Taipei City and Kaohsiung City special municipalities next December.

That election will be the first battle for the 2012 presidential election, Wang said.

Ma and the KMT may be able to downplay the importance of the local elections this year, but Ma will have to take full responsibility if the party fails in the elections next year, he said.

National Dong Hwa University professor Shih Cheng-feng (
施正鋒) said yesterday’s elections also highlighted the long-existing issue of local factions and pan-blue forces in the KMT after the party lost Hualien to independent candidate Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁).

Yesterday’s results do not necessarily mean that voters would embrace the DPP in the 2012 presidential election, because the KMT defeated itself, Shih said.

“It will be important for Ma to fulfill his promise to reform the KMT and present better government policies,” Shih said.
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*Taipei Times》2009/12/06