At the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) congress on Saturday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) centered his presidential nomination acceptance speech around the alleged corruption of the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, and challenged the opposition’s ability to build a clean government.
He singled out former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as one of the “corrupt officials from the former government” and pledged not to tolerate any form of corruption if he is re-elected in January’s presidential election.
Ma’s playing the anti-corruption card against the DPP follows former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) indictment last week on charges of embezzling US$7.8 million from secret diplomatic funds.
The corruption cases against the Chen family have been a political bonanza for the Ma administration, with Ma winning more than 7 million votes in the 2008 election largely thanks to a campaign strategy that targeted Chen’s corruption trial.
Ma’s speech on Saturday showed that once again fighting corruption would be the theme for his campaign, only this time he is seeking to make a connection between corruption and DPP Chairperson and presidential nominee Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
However, a large percentage of swing voters who gave their support to Ma in 2008 have shown their disappointment with his government’s performance over the past three years. The KMT has lost more than 2 million votes in recent elections.
According to various surveys, Ma’s approval rating has dropped to between 30 percent and 40 percent since he took office. In the latest poll released by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), Tsai enjoyed a lead of 4.5 percentage points over Ma, with a support rate of 31.66 percent compared with Ma’s 27.12 percent, with 41.22 percent of voters undecided.
The KMT’s defeat in the five special municipality elections and legislative by-elections as well as Ma’s low approval ratings are warning signs. Unfortunately for Ma, targeting corruption claims against former presidents in his re-election campaign will hardly be an effective strategy in the face of mounting public resentment over the incompetence of his administration.
Moreover, the KMT brought an unprecedented level of corruption to Taiwan. Its attacks against the alleged misdeeds of the DPP and other former officials only remind voters of the KMT’s poor reputation and “black gold” tradition.
The Ma administration has done nothing to unambiguously prove that it has made real efforts to combat corruption.
Aside from turning a blind eye to the large number of KMT legislators and local politicians who have been involved in corruption and bribery cases, the KMT is yet to return the assets it stole from the government during its decades in power to the treasury.
Since he took over as KMT chairman in 2005, Ma has repeatedly promised to handle the remaining party assets — Central Investment Co — and purge the party of any business dealings. However, the KMT failed to sell the party-run business by June 30 as planned.
One should always reflect upon one’s own behavior before criticizing others. If Ma really wanted to fight corruption and build a clean government, he would explain the KMT’s handling of party assets to the public and clean the party roster of politicians tainted by rumors of corruption.
Shifting the focus to the alleged corruption of the former DPP government will not convince voters that a new Ma administration would be any cleaner — or that it would prove more effective in the areas that matter most to Taiwanese voters: the economy, jobs, the environment and preserving the “status quo” in cross-strait relations.
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