Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Ma's victory still leaves tremendous challenges

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

Although the future is full of political uncertainties, the century-old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) concluded its first competitive chairmanship election last week. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won a landslide victory over Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

It is fair to say that Ma's victory lies primarily in his personal characteristics and a solid endorsement by the hard-core Mainlander community. While Ma, by winning the chairmanship, is no doubt moving toward the climax of his political career and securing his bid for the presidency in 2008, what essentially lies ahead are tremendous hurdles.

Ma's first challenge is to mend fences with Wang and win back the support of the KMT's old guard. Wang's immediate refusal after the election to "shake hands" with Ma and his revelation that he would "follow in [current Chairman] Lien Chan's (連戰) steps to become a permanent volunteer for the party" implied he would quit the position of party vice-chairman and "walk his own way" as leader of the legislature. This served as a grave warning for Ma about the potential for internal division within the KMT.

The fact that Ma needs Wang's grassroots support and cooperation for both the upcoming local government elections and for crucial legislation in the Legislative Yuan means the incoming KMT chairman must bridge the gap with Wang's camp. Wang may have lost the election but he has earned more leverage for political negotiation.

Moreover, Ma's failure to win support from the KMT's elders was exemplified by Lien, who cast his vote for Wang. Wang's success in allying with People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and other senior KMT leaders and legislators displayed his mastery of political maneuvering within the pan-blue camp. And it demonstrated a significant lack of ability on the part of Ma's camp to coordinate with the KMT's old guard, both in the central organization and the legislature. Additionally, there is an urgent need for Ma to consult with the PFP on nominating candidates for certain local government races.

Ma's second test will be the degree to which he can distinguish his own political philosophy from Lien's, especially with respect to developing a pragmatic China policy based on safeguarding Taiwan's national interest.

Can Ma build a cross-strait policy that strikes a balance between Lien's unilateral acceptance of the "one China" fantasy and the mainstream opinion in favor of more dignified, equal and peaceful dialogue with the other side of the Taiwan Strait?

The third urgent task for Ma is to introduce determined and comprehensive reforms on the KMT's party assets and black-gold cronyism. The rejuvenation of the KMT will not be realized by empty talk or simply through recruiting younger talent into the central decision-making process.

Ma implied during the campaign that Wang is closely associated with so-called "black gold" politics within the party itself. In pledging to eradicate this, how will Ma root out "black gold," while at the same time rebuilding the KMT's organization network at the rank-and-file level?

Furthermore, Ma must show more determination and concrete plans to handle questions regarding the KMT's assets, rather than putting all the blame on former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Finally, and most importantly, as the new leader of the largest opposition party, Ma must outline to the nation how he will forge rational and responsible interactions with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), in light of Chen's call for partisan reconciliation. Ma must clarify the approach he will pursue to work promptly with the Democratic Progressive Party government on key policies concerning Taiwan's national security and the public's social welfare.

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