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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times KMT facing crisis of confidence

KMT facing crisis of confidence

How quickly things can change in politics. From landslide victories in the legislative and presidential elections just 18 months ago, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) now finds itself in a crisis of confidence following a spate of defeats and infighting ahead of December’s local elections.

The run started back in March when the KMT lost a legislative by-election in the pan-blue stronghold of Miaoli. Many dismissed it as a blip, but when the party’s preferred candidate for Hualien County commissioner — former minister of health Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) — quit his job in August to take part in the race and then promptly lost the party primary despite substantial gerrymandering to give him the best possible chance of victory, people suddenly began to take notice.

Fast forward to the KMT’s crushing defeat in the Yunlin legislative by-election on Saturday — a vote the party would have lost by a considerable margin even without a pan-blue split.

Now, with the party’s candidate for Yunlin County commissioner dropping out and the Hualien deputy commissioner leaving the party to run as an independent and challenge the KMT candidate, party figures must be beginning to worry.

A KMT defeat in the upcoming Nantou legislative by-election could turn into a full-blown crisis for the party, with the year-end elections just weeks away.

Outgoing KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) this week brushed aside concerns of a crisis, saying the infighting was just part of local politics and the party would continue its reform efforts and choose candidates who possess “integrity and a clean image.” That certainly wasn’t the case in Miaoli, however, and the party was punished for choosing the wife of the candidate convicted of vote-buying.

As Wu said, the problems may all be the result of local factionalism, but the party cannot and should not rule out the effect the shoddy performance of the central government is having on the populace.

The recent record-low approval ratings of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his Cabinet reflect a general unhappiness with the state of the nation and this cannot have helped the party’s image at the local level. A couple of years ago, local election candidates were queuing up to have their campaign poster photos taken with Ma; this year, such posters are conspicuous by their absence.

The president’s reputation may have taken a battering because of the failures exposed by Typhoon Morakot, but there was also a growing sense of disappointment in Ma’s presidency and lack of leadership even before August’s troubles.

Ma’s first 18 months in power have disappointed many. He has failed to live up to his promises of Taiwan-centric governance and economic success, often appearing weak and indecisive, while his policy of putting the nation’s economy and future prosperity in hock to China has only weakened his position.

The decision to take on the chairmanship of the unruly beast that is the KMT is only likely to further undermine his image.

Like it or not, Ma was instrumental in the party’s resurgence after years of electoral disappointment, but even the most popular politicians only have a shelf life of a handful of years. Displays of poor leadership, as Ma has done, can rapidly reduce that shelf life and drag the party down with it.

That is the price you pay when you rule in a democracy.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2009/10/02

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Premier William Lai delivers a report and answers lawmakers’ questions in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Taiwan is a sovereign nation whose official title is the Republic of China, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday, adding that “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are independent of each other.”