The next major elections are set for late 2014, with the public to vote for the heads of the five special municipalities, as well as cities and counties. As it is, the governing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is looking like a train wreck in the making. Not only are ratings for the central government in the red, but those for local government are also flashing warning lights.
A survey of the performance of city mayors and county commissioners published by CommonWealth Magazine on Monday showed that four of the top five come from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), led by Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), followed by Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) at No. 2, Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) at No. 4 and Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) at No. 5. Only one came from the KMT — Miaoli County Commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻).
The DPP’s reputation took a knock when former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) became embroiled in a string of corruption cases. The party took a beating in the 2006 city and county head elections, with even favorably viewed candidates like former Yilan County commissioner Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) not faring well. The party’s showing improved in the special municipality elections in 2010, although former DPP heads Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) failed to capture Taipei or New Taipei City (新北市).
On Sunday, Citizen’s Congress Watch also released an evaluation of members of the legislative committees, with DPP members coming in at the top. The DPP can once again claim diligence in governance — from its handling of national and local affairs.
On the other hand, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has been very vocal about fighting corruption, has seen the KMT hit by a string of corruption scandals — from the allegations against former Cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) to former National Fire Agency director-general Huang Chi-min (黃季敏) and Criminal Investigation Bureau chief secretary Hsu Jui-shan (許瑞山).
All eyes are now on the KMT’s rising stars: Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強). Whenever Ma gets in trouble, political observers watch how these three react, but while they might be viewed as emerging stars within the KMT, the public looks unconvinced. Of the 22 leaders in the CommonWealth survey, Chu, Hu and Hau ranked 19th, 20th and 21st respectively.
With Ma’s popularity rating at rock bottom, the three have been careful to distance themselves from the president. Hau has been taking independent initiatives, with the Taipei City Government changing the name of the street on which democracy advocate Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) lived to “Freedom Lane.” During the ceremony to mark the occasion, Hau urged Ma to handle the issue of medical parole for Chen Shui-bian with sensitivity. The Taipei mayor has also lambasted the central government for its failure to amend the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) and the Public Debt Act (公共債務法).
Even John Wu (吳志揚), commissioner of Taoyuan County, which is seeking an upgrade to special municipality status, is testing his wings. Wu has broached the idea of accessing central government subsidies for the MRT extension to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. The KMT faces more of this, where the central government finds it increasingly difficult to keep the local governments in line.