Often in politics, you reap what you sow. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus, which has by far the most influence in the Legislative Yuan, railroaded through legislation last summer that combined the presidential and legislative elections, bringing the presidential election forward by two-and-a-half months.
The KMT caucus used the flimsy excuse that combining the elections would save taxpayers money to justify the decision, but it was obvious that the legislation was engineered to help President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election bid. The date chosen for the elections, Jan. 14, is more than four months ahead of the date when Ma would have to step down should he lose, giving him plenty of time for shenanigans that could prolong his power or diminish that of an incoming Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.
It also looks like the election date was chosen to coincide with school finals so young voters, who are more likely to vote for the DPP, would skip the poll.
So the KMT caucus delivered the combined election to Ma on a platter, but now that the legislative elections are less than a week away, are KMT legislators happy that they did so? What did they get out of it?
Ma agreed to lend support to legislators in the elections for their cooperation in passing legislation that would help him. However, now that they have done so, Ma is showing a complete lack of gratitude. Does he even remember his legislators?
KMT headquarters has engaged in a sort of “Ma first” strategy, with local legislators forced to fend for themselves in fundraising, promotion, rally organizing and getting out the vote. Ma’s camp has taken the lion’s share of central party funds, leaving table scraps for the KMT’s legislative candidates. He barely even has time to stump for his party brethren, often showing up once to a local campaign rally to show his face and then basically cross that legislator’s name off a list.
This does not seem like a smart strategy considering that Ma owes virtually all of his power over the past four years to the fact that the KMT-dominated legislature has pretty much rubber-stamped everything he wanted. Not showing his appreciation is a true lack of respect. This has led to a lot of grumbling in the ranks, with many KMT hopefuls opting to not invite Ma to their campaign events and refraining from putting up billboards featuring the president.
When you compare relations between the presidential candidates and legislative hopefuls of the other major parties, there are stark differences. DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been throwing her weight behind DPP legislative candidates throughout her campaign, mainly because the DPP chairperson is fully aware of the importance of breaking the KMT’s stranglehold on the legislature.
People First Party candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜), on the other hand, seems to be running solely to boost the chances of the PFP’s legislative candidates. His stated goal is to surpass the party vote threshold of 5 percent so the PFP can have some legislators-at-large.
When KMT legislative candidates see the support their competitors are getting from their party headquarters, they must be kicking themselves. Whether or not Ma wins this election, you can bet the KMT caucus is not going to forget his lack of support.