Wed, Nov 07, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Ma's ploy shows lack to leadership

By Liu Kuan-teh 劉冠德

When it comes to Taiwanese elections, debate on independence and unification dominates. Although Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has tried to play the "economy card" to boost his campaign, his background as a Mainlander still overshadows the image he is trying to create.

However, the fact remains that whoever wants to win the next presidential election must prove that he is a capable leader without being captured, branded and held hostage by individual interest groups, especially the old guard within his party.

Recent inconsistencies between Ma's camp, former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and the annual report to the KMT Central Standing Committee (CSC) on whether the party decided to eliminate the so-called "1992 consensus" and the goal of "ultimate unification with China" has sparked a political fire over the most sensitive aspect of the KMT's policy toward China.

After Lien issued a "warning" statement to Ma's camp to "refrain from sacrificing its ideals for the sake of electoral victory," Ma labeled the inconsistency in the CSC report an "incident" and blamed it on his staff. The episode should not be seen simply as an accident but a manifestation of mistrust between Ma and Lien.

If it were simply a trivial mistake as Ma claims, why would Lien express such deep concern and strong anger about it without talking to Ma in advance?

Born in Hong Kong and trained in the KMT's hierarchical party structure, Ma was indoctrinated in the dogma of "ultimate unification" with China. However, because the phenomenon of "Taiwan-centered consciousness" has been strengthening in recent years, Ma has been trying to play the "Taiwan card" ever since he unveiled his campaign.

Ma's "long stay" bicycle tour around Taiwan was designed for the candidate to demonstrate love for Taiwan in the hope of scooping up the "light green" vote from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Ma further sought to downplay the unification fantasy while consolidating support from the pro-unification camp by introducing the theory of "connecting Taiwan with China" and incorporating "Taiwan" wording into the KMT's party charter, as well as saying the "Republic of China is Taiwan."

There is no doubt that Ma has been sitting on the fence on the independence-unification issue. In response to the DPP referendum on using the name "Taiwan" to join the UN, Ma decided to offer an alternative referendum using the name "the Republic of China" to return to the United Nations and whatever title is most appropriate for joining other bodies. But the truth is Ma and the KMT have not shown strong determination or concrete action to push their own referendum forward.

This time though, Ma opted to put aside the controversial "1992 consensus" -- which turned out to be nothing but a phrase invented by KMT former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) -- and obscure the unification-independence dichotomy. However, it seems he has crossed the "red line" set by the KMT old guard and was slapped in the face by Lien.

The internal political storm proves that Ma has never respected the KMT elders and has been insisting on running his own campaign.

But if Ma can resist the pressure from the KMT old guard, at least he can prove he stands for Taiwan's best interests. Regretfully, Ma's repeated vacillation on the issue proves he is willing to sacrifice his beliefs for electoral purposes.

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