Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Race to the presidency begins to take shape

By Wang Yeh-li 王業立

Ever since Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won a landslide victory in the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) chairmanship election, garnering more than 70 percent of the vote, many political commentators have begun to believe that he is emerging as a formidable presidential hopeful. In view of the current regulations governing the KMT's nomination for president, Ma definitely will be nominated to run for the presidency in 2008 on behalf of the KMT, unless he decides not to run.

According to Article 3 of the "Nomination Regulations Governing the KMT's Rank and File Intending to Run for Public Office," the KMT's Central Committee has the right to decide who can represent the party in the presidential race based on the outcome of a rank-and-file vote (50 percent) and on a public opinion survey (50 percent).

One of the regulations also stipulates that, if necessary, the party can nominate a non-KMT member as a vice presidential candidate. Since Ma garnered 71.51 percent of the vote in the chairmanship election, few will be able to challenge his bid if he decides to contest for the party's presidential candidate in 2007. As for public opinion, Ma shouldn't have much trouble there either.

Who is qualified to be the party's vice presidential candidate? Ma will very probably select a respected pan-blue Hoklo politician from central or southern Taiwan as his running mate. Whether the vice presidential candidate has local grassroots support may not be a primary consideration, in view of the format of the presidential election.

According to the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Articles for Nominating Candidates for Public Office, support of the rank and file (30 percent) and the result of a public opinion survey (70 percent) are the two major elements used to decide who can become the party's presidential and vice presidential candidates. Under this nomination system, the more charismatic a candidate is, the more likely it is that he or she will come out ahead.

When the DPP nominated its presidential candidate in 1999, the public opinion survey greatly outweighed the evaluation of the candidates conducted by the DPP's rank-and-file and cadre members. Thus, I believe that in 2007, if the nomination mechanism remains in place, the overall popularity of both the DPP's and the KMT 's presidential candidates will dictate whether he or she will be nominated by the party. Under these circumstances, candidates who enjoy the greatest popularity will be able to win the backing of the party elite.

Additionally, the seventh legislative elections, which will precede the 2008 presidential election, are also going to be crucial as the "single-member district, two-vote system" will be adopted for the first time. As such, the presidential hopefuls are likely to get out and stump for the legislative candidates to test the waters. At that point, it will be difficult to tell whether they are canvassing support for themselves or for the legislative candidates.

More importantly, the party that gains the majority of seats in the legislative elections will get a boost in the presidential elections that follow -- meaning that the fate of the presidential candidates will be closely related to the outcome of the legislative elections.

In short, both the green and blue camps are likely to establish a nominating mechanism that allows public opinion surveys to play a more important role in selecting their presidential candidates. These types of measures are unique to the development of democracy in Taiwan and, with this kind of nomination system, we can already get a clear idea what kind of presidential candidates we are likely to get.

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