ANALYSIS: Ma faces tough challenge after KMT losses, experts say*





FRUSTRATION: Analysts underlined the need for the KMT to make it policymaking process more transparent to regain voters' trust if it wants to win in future polls

By Mo Yan-chih
Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010, Page 3

The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) crushing defeat in Saturday's legislative by-elections highlighted voters' frustration at the government's performance and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would face great challenges in seeking re-election in 2012 if his administration continues to ignore public opinion, analysts said.

The KMT lost all the three contested seats in Taoyuan, Taichung and Taitung counties to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), suffering another setback since regaining power in 2008. The defeat also closely follows its loss in the Miaoli and Yunlin legislative by-elections, as well as the local government elections last year.

“Voters have sent a clear message to the KMT in Saturday's by-elections, which is that they are not satisfied with the government's performance and its policies,” said Ku Chung-hwa (
顧忠華), a political scientist at National Chengchi University.

Ku said the government did a poor job in working with the legislature and failed to clearly explain its major policies — from its proposed signing of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China to the opening of the local market to US beef and its A(H1N1) vaccination program — and no government officials had stepped down to take responsibility for poor policy implementation.

“Ma and his party have refused to admit their mistakes and have not taken responsibility for [the government's] performance, and they are losing the public's trust,” he said.

The outcome of the by-elections was also a setback for King Pu-tsung (
金溥聰) as it was the first election he organized after taking over as KMT secretary-general.

King returned from the US last month to help Ma, who doubles as KMT chairman, organize election campaigns and handle party reform following the KMT's defeat in the local government elections on Dec. 5.

Ku said King had adopted a poor campaign strategy by accusing the DPP of engaging in election bribery, since the KMT has long been plagued by the same problem.

Two of the three seats in Saturday's legislative by-elections were left vacant after Liao Cheng-ching (
廖正井) of Taoyuan County and Chiang Lien-fu (江連福) of Taichung County were relieved of their seats after being found guilty of vote-buying.

The other was vacated when Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (
黃健庭) resigned as a legislator last year to take part in last month's county commissioner election. The KMT dissuaded then-Taitung County commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞) from seeking re-election and nominated her as the candidate for the by-election instead.

National Dong Hwa University professor Shih Cheng-feng (
施正鋒) said the KMT's defeat was hardly surprising as the by-elections in Taoyuan and Taichung were held because the two elected KMT officials were found guilty of bribery.

Kuang's defeat in Taitung, on the other hand, underlined the challenge for the KMT to seek party reform while making compromises with local factions.

“It is important that the KMT insist on party reform and look beyond the election outcome. The party won't win unless it presents solid policies and great candidates,” he said.

Wang Yeh-li (
王業立), a professor at National Taiwan University, said the KMT would suffer more defeats in future elections if the Ma administration repeated its mistakes and failed to make its policymaking process transparent.

As the president and party chairman, Ma should take full responsibility for it, he added.

Ma was notably absent from the by-election campaign until the final day before the polls, spending only one day to campaign for the party's candidates in the three counties. He did not attend the KMT's post-by-election press conference and did not offer any comments, either.

Shih said Ma and King attempted to separate the president from the by-elections in an effort to protect his image, and King would continue to focus on party reform as a campaign strategy to improve Ma's reputation and boost his chances in the presidential election in 2012.

However, the KMT's successive defeat in recent elections has damaged the party's momentum and made it more difficult for the Ma administration to promote its policies, he said.

Ku said the KMT could fare better in the legislative by-elections next month, as the party has made more efforts to integrate local factions in the nomination process.

The party should start organizing for the year-end special municipality elections and nominate better candidates, as the elections will be a major skirmish ahead of the presidential poll in 2012, he said.




*Taipei Times》2010/1/12