Sun, Jul 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Victorious Ma faces uphill battle

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairmanship race concluded with an overwhelming victory for Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). He is the first chairman of the KMT to be directly elected by the rank and file since the party was founded more than a century ago. It is an important milestone for both the party and Ma personally, and will be a determining factor in the nomination for the 2008 presidential elections.

Legislative Speaker and KMT Vice Chairman Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Ma fought fiercely in the election campaign, and although there was controversy over nominal party members and undue influence of party heavyweights, for a party only recently introduced to democratic reforms, the smooth conduct of the election should be regarded as a success. There is some danger, however, that the conflict that arose from the campaign may continue, and it should be Ma's top priority to put a stop to this.

We believe that both Ma and Wang are mature politicians and will now show a sportsman-like spirit in the interests of maintaining party unity. The KMT cannot afford further divisions, and as the new party chairman, Ma should invite Wang to serve as deputy chairman as a goodwill gesture in the interests of party unity.

With the election of the new KMT chairman, the relationship between government and opposition will enter a new phase. Outgoing chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) have been competitors in two presidential elections, and the animosity between the two has permeated each other's party and became personal. It may now be possible to wipe the slate clean of old hostilities. Ma should meet with Chen to build a consensus on important political issues such as cross-strait relations, the arms procurement budget and national security and economic development. The last five years of political paralysis have had a negative impact on the country and this period of indiscriminate political boycotts should now come to an end.

The KMT's unresolved issues, such as the handling of party assets, have hurt it in elections and in many cases have become a burden for the party's workers. Although the KMT is transforming itself into a democratic party, it is still at its core a revolutionary party with a power structure that fails to respond to public opinion. Attending to these issues will be one of the most important duties of the new chairman.

Even if the KMT does not change its name, a rejuvenated focus on localization remains an urgent matter. The election campaigning has taken Ma into every corner of Taiwanese society, and he must realize that if the KMT fails to shed its image as an alien political party and become more localized, it will certainly be fighting an uphill battle to perform well in the upcoming mayoral and county commissioner elections -- not to mention the 2008 presidential election.

At the same time Ma's continuing lack of support among party heavyweights will be a major obstacle in his efforts to promote party reform. Since he had to rely on the Mainlander vote, the pace of party localization will likely be delayed, and this might also hurt the KMT's long-term prospects.

Although Ma defeated Chen in the 1998 Taipei mayoral elections, he might not be able to beat the Democratic Progressive Party's candidate in 2008 and win back the presidency for the party.

This story has been viewed 4036 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top