Wed, Jan 27, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL : Seeking a man of substance

Twenty months into his term, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has seen his approval ratings tumble almost monthly, with the latest poll by Global Views magazine’s survey research center hitting a new low of 23.2 percent.

In an obvious attempt to woo back supporters, Ma traveled to Hualien on Sunday and paid a special visit to Chiang Mei-hua (江美華), a Ma fan who drew the attention of the media — and the Presidential Office — after her son disclosed on his blog that his mom had lost her admiration for Ma because of the government’s poor performance.

An obviously thrilled Chiang said after Ma’s visit that the president was now back among her top three idols, along with Hong Kong movie star Andy Lau (劉德華) and South Korean star Bae Yong-joon. Obviously the other two men have never given a disappointing performance in her books.

It is good to see Ma respond to his sinking popularity.

However, while it may be satisfying to know he can still charm older women who idolize him — and the rest of his legion of female fans — Ma should remember that as head of state, the competence of his government is what matters.

Ma should work on improving the government’s performance as a whole instead of trying to charm his way out of public dissatisfaction.

In an interview with the Taipei Times last week, Ma reiterated his pledge to be the “people’s president” (全民總統), rejecting criticism that having doubled up as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman he had become a “pan-blue president,” placing partisan interests above public concerns.

A glance at his planned itinerary, however, suggests otherwise.

The KMT has announced that after Ma returns from his current Latin American trip, he will begin a nationwide tour next month in his capacity as KMT chairman to campaign for party candidates as well as to seek better communication with local party members.

Visits to several juancun (眷村), or veterans’ villages, are planned. This party tour will be stretched out over several months in the run-up to the special municipality elections at the end of the year.

It appears that Ma is focusing his attention on rallying KMT supporters to consolidate their sympathy for him.

If Ma really saw himself as a “people’s president,” he would be paying attention to things of far greater importance than the feelings of uncommitted voters in by-elections.

What Ma may have yet to realize is that the true crisis in his administration lies not in the short-term temper tantrum thrown by his supporters, but in the spreading lack of confidence the public has in the government as a whole.

If Ma is only interested in appeasing pan-blue supporters and remains oblivious to the rest, he will continue to disappoint the majority, which in turn will lead to further damage to his approval ratings.

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